WASHINGTON, D.C. - After jumping out to a 21-10 lead, Lehigh’s offense went ice cold, finishing with its second-lowest point output of the season in a 71-62 loss at American (16-8, 7-2 Patriot League) Thursday night. Junior C.J. McCollum finished with 30 points, his fifth game with 30 or more points this season. After scoring 23 points in the first nine minutes, the Mountain Hawks (18-7, 6-3) went cold in scoring only 39 over the final 31 minutes.
“I thought our defense played better in the second half and gave us a chance, which is what we need to rely on all the time,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “What we had was a tail of two halves; we had ineffectiveness in the first half with our defense and then because we were not efficient and we didn’t make shots, we started to press even more. And as we pressed more, we put even more pressure on our offense and didn’t get the looks that we needed."
With his 30 points, McCollum moved up a slot in both Lehigh and Patriot League history for career points, now with 1,850. Senior Jordan Hamilton also reached double figures, scoring 11 points (all in the first half and nine within the game’s first eight minutes). Junior Gabe Knutson added eight to pull within 15 of 1,000 for his career.
Four American players reached double figures, led by 18 points and 17 rebounds from Tony Wroblicky. Troy Brewer added 17 on 7-of-12 shooting while Charles Hinkle scored 14 and Daniel Munoz added 11. With the win, the Eagles improved to 10-0 at home this season.
“Wroblicky getting loose like he did was really problematic,” said Reed. “He ultimately gave his team second possessions and second-chance opportunities. If you allow a team to shoot 55 percent in the first half, you’re going to build yourself a pretty big deficit unless your offense is really clicking.”
Hamilton was the story in the early going, scoring nine straight Lehigh points via a trio of threes. That helped offset Wroblicky, who scored six straight for the Eagles. Hamilton’s third trey with 15:52 remaining gave Lehigh an 11-10 lead at the first media timeout.
Then it was McCollum’s turn as he began to catch fire, scoring the game’s next seven points before sophomore Mackey McKnight took a dish from McCollum and knocked down a three, forcing American to call timeout with 12:04 on the clock.
With the Mountain Hawks leading 21-10, the Eagles responded with a run of their own, scoring 14 of the next 18 points to pull within 25-24 following a Brower three-pointer with 8:05 remaining. Knutson had stopped the bleeding on the other end with a hard-fought offensive rebound, then putback before Brewer pulled the Eagles as close as they had been since 11-10.
American pulled back even at 29 apiece via a Hinkle three-pointer with five minutes remaining, but Lehigh answered on the other end behind a Knutson layup. After the Eagles tied it again, McKnight found senior Justin Maneri for the easy layup to make it 33-31 Mountain Hawks. An Anthony D’Orazio free throw made it 34-31, but the Eagle responded with a 9-2 run down the stretch, capped off by Hinkle’s third trey of the half, to make it 40-36 after 20 minutes of play.
An extremely offensive first half saw Lehigh shoot 50 percent from the field (14-of-28) while American was at 55 percent (17-of-31). Both teams knocked down 50 percent or more of their three-pointers as well.
The Eagles quickly extended their lead to seven early in the second, but McCollum responded with five straight to pull back within 44-41 with 17:46 on the clock.
A McCollum three-point play with 14:19 remaining tied the score at 46, then after four straight American points, Maneri found senior John Adams backdoor for the easy layup to pull within 50-48.
Lehigh’s offense began to sputter, going nearly six minutes without a point, but a tenacious defense kept the Eagles to only six points in that span. Knutson ended the run with a steal at center court before going all the way for the layup to pull within 56-50. A Brewer bank shot made it 58-50, but the Mountain Hawks responded with four straight behind a McCollum deuce and a Holden Greiner drive to the basket.
The Eagles went back ahead 62-54 before Lehigh scored four straight to make it interesting, but American pulled away down the stretch, hitting seven of their final nine free throws to close out the 71-62 final.
The Mountain Hawks finished shooting 38 percent from the field (24-of-63) and 33 percent from three-point range (7-of-21). American shot 47 percent (27-of-58) and 47 percent from long distance (8-of-17). The Eagles held a commanding 55-27 edge on the boards.
Lehigh returns home on Saturday (Feb. 11) for a 7 p.m. tip against Stabler Arena. Admission is FREE for all as part of Fan Appreciation Night. Radio Disney (AM 640) will be on hand with music, games and prizes which should be a fun night for all. Fans can claim their tickets on Lehighsports.com by clicking here. Tickets for all home games may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.