ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Behind a game-high 24 points from junior C.J. McCollum and a career-high 11 from sophomore B.J. Bailey, the Lehigh men’s basketball team pulled out a 58-41 win over Navy on Wednesday to tie the school record for single-season victories. The Mountain Hawks’ (22-7, 10-3 Patriot League) defense impressed all game, holding the Midshipmen (3-24, 0-13) scoreless for long stretches including one of 8:38 in the second half to open up a double-digit advantage. Lehigh looks for its school-record 23rd victory in the regular season finale at Army on Saturday.
“It was a little bit of an ugly basketball game, but fortunately we were able to come through with the proper results,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “At the end of the day, Navy scored 41 points. We had some problems with Jordan Sugars, who is a really good player, and made a correction in the second half. Unfortunately, offensive rebounds hurt us in the second. Towards the end of the game, I thought our energy level picked up a little bit and we made some key stops.”
Navy pulled within 37-34 early in the second half, but Lehigh responded by holding the Midshipmen scoreless for the next 8:38. In the process, the Mountain Hawks opened a 13-point lead on the way to its 19th double-digit win of the season.
Bailey’s 11 points came on 4-of-5 shooting and a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range while McCollum shot 9-of-18 while grabbing three rebounds and dishing two assists. Sophomore Mackey McKnight scored eight points while junior Gabe Knutson and senior Jordan Hamilton added five apiece.
Sugars finished with 13 for Navy (all in the first half) while Carlton Smith posted 12 and eight rebounds.
McCollum scored the game’s first points, but Navy responded with six in a row - four coming from Smith - to take a 6-2 lead with 16:47 on the clock. The Mountain Hawks came back with four straight to tie the score at six before the Midshipmen went on to open a 12-9 lead following a Sugars three-pointer.
A Smith layup made it 14-11 with 12:23 remaining, but the Mountain Hawks responded with an 11-2 run over the next six minutes to take a six-point, 22-16, advantage with 6:07 remaining. Bailey scored five points as part of the run, while McCollum and freshman Corey Schaefer each added a three.
Lehigh then scored six of the next nine points behind three free throws and a nifty McKnight trey off an inbounds play, to make it 28-19 with 1:32 on the clock.
Sugars ended Navy’s 4:49 scoreless drought, knocking down a three with 21 seconds to go, but McCollum responded with a jumper at the buzzer to make it 30-22 at the half.
After Navy scored 16 points over the first 9:04, the Mountain Hawk defense stood tall in holding the Midshipmen to only six points the final 10:56 (both Sugars three-pointers). That included two scoreless stretches of 5:46 and 4:49 between points. McCollum ended the first with 14 points, offsetting Sugars, who accounted for 13 of Navy’s 22 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting.
The Midshipmen hung tough in the second as a pair of Isaiah Roberts free throws, then a Smith layup, pulled Navy back within five, 33-28 with 15:27 on the clock. But Lehigh came right back with a Knutson layup and a pair of free throws to go right back up nine.
However, the Midshipmen scored six in a row behind a Smith offensive rebound and layup, then a Roberts three-point play, to pull back within 37-34 with 13:02 left in the second.
McKnight ended the run with a three-pointer after a big John Adams offensive rebound, making it 40-34 with 11:31 to go. After more than three minutes with neither team scoring, McCollum ended it with a jumper in the lane to open an eight-point advantage with 8:20 on the clock. A Knutson layup and Bailey three-pointer extended the run to 10-0 and the lead to 47-34, forcing Navy to call timeout with 5:59 remaining.
Lehigh cruised from there, opening its largest lead of the game at the final horn (17) to pull out the 58-41 final.
The Mountain Hawks finished at 41 percent from the field (21-of-51) and 43 percent from three-point range (9-of-21). The Midshipmen finished at 34 percent (14-of-41) and 31 percent from long distance (4-of-13). Navy won the battle of the boards, 31-29.
The Mountain Hawks round out regular season play at Army Saturday (4 p.m.). Lehigh will then host a Patriot League Quarterfinal game next Wednesday (Feb. 29) at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased on Lehighsports.com, over the phone (610-758-4263) or in-person at Stabler Arena, Monday-through-Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $6 for students/children/seniors.