BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team used a 15-4 first-half run to open a 40-25 halftime advantage before rolling in the second, as the Mountain Hawks (18-6, 6-2 Patriot League) downed Holy Cross (9-13, 3-5), 75-51, on Saturday in Stabler Arena. Lehigh was led by junior C.J. McCollum, who filled up the stat sheet once again with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals to lead the Mountain Hawks to their fourth straight win.
“I was pleased with our defensive effort,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “I thought we were really glued in. People were in the right positions and because we trusted our system and trusted each other, when opportunities came for steals, our deflections became very important because they created transition opportunities along with negating their shot attempts.”
McCollum finished 9-of-18 from the field while narrowly missing his third straight double-double. Junior Holden Greiner added 15 on 4-of-5 shooting and 2-of-3 from long range while Gabe Knutson posted 12 points to pull within 23 of 1,000 for his career. Senior John Adams impressed off the bench with eight points and eight rebounds as well.
Lehigh avenged its 84-78 to the Crusaders on Jan. 7 by playing stellar defense, holding Holy Cross to 51 points, the third straight game the Mountain Hawks have held an opponent to 64 or fewer. The win was Lehigh’s fourth in a row, the squad’s longest streak since winning six straight from Nov. 15 through Dec. 1.
A strong Mountain Hawks’ defense held preseason All-League honoree Devin Brown to only 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting while 1,000-point scorer R.J. Evans only had seven via 3-of-7 from the floor. Mike Cavataio led the way for Holy Cross with 12 points.
The game was extremely physical with 39 total fouls called, including five players who had four personal fouls (four on Holy Cross and one on Lehigh).
“We dropped the decision at Holy Cross, which is one we were disappointed about,” said Reed. “We didn’t feel we played as well as we were capable of in the beginning of that game. We cut into the deficit, but built too big of a hole. Our guys understood that they let an opportunity slip away and they were very determined and focused to make sure that didn’t happen again tonight.”
Both teams went back and forth in the early going. An R.J. Evans layup gave the Crusaders a 4-3 lead, but Lehigh used a McCollum jumper and two Greiner free throws to go up 7-4 with 16:29 on the clock. Holy Cross used a 7-0 run to go up 11-7 before the Mountain Hawks quickly tied it following a Mackey McKnight fastbreak layup.
The sides went back and forth in the ensuing minutes. Then with the Mountain Hawks leading 23-20, Lehigh’s offense caught fire, scoring 17 points in the final 4:44 (while only allowing five) to open a 15-point, 40-25 lead after 20 minutes of play. McCollum caught fire with eight points in that stretch, including a steal and fastbreak dunk to get the crowd to its feet. McKnight also knocked down a three-pointer with time expiring to cap off five Lehigh points in the final 16 seconds.
The lead hovered between 12 and 17 for the opening 10 minutes of the second half before the Mountain Hawks used a 15-1 run to turn a 55-42 advantage to 70-43 with 4:55 left in the second. The run spanned 6:14 as Knutson scored 10 of the 17 points, including eight straight.
The Mountain Hawks easily held on the rest of the way for their seventh 20-point win of the season. In total, 16 of the team’s 18 victories have come by double figures.
Lehigh finished at 46 percent from the field (25-of-54) and 32 percent from three-point range (7-of-22) while Holy Cross shot 36 percent (18-of-50) and 26 percent from long distance (5-of-19). The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, 37-32.
The Mountain Hawks hit the road on Thursday when they travel to American for a key showdown against the Eagles. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Lehigh returns home next Saturday (Feb. 11) for a 7 p.m. tip against Stabler Arena. Admission for that game will be FREE for all as part of Fan Appreciation Night. Fans can claim their tickets on Lehighsports.com. Tickets for all home games may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.
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