BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Despite freshman Kerry Kinek’s 19 points and nine rebounds, the Lehigh women’s basketball team fell to American on Wednesday night inside Stabler Arena, 62-56, snapping its four-game winning streak. Kinek’s 19 points tied a career-high, but 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 16 points off the bench helped the Eagles halt Lehigh’s 2013 streak.
"I thought we did a good job in the first half with our half-court defense by limiting their easy looks and good looks," said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan. "This is disappointing, but we have to learn from it and get better at handling the full-court pressure."
American raced out of the gates to a 7-2 lead over the first four minutes of the game, scoring seven straight after Kinek recorded the game’s first bucket. The 6-3 Whitehall native proceeded to score the next seven points for the Mountain Hawks over the first six minutes of the game as Lehigh knotted the game at nine apiece to cap a 7-2 run.
The two teams then hit the see-saw, trading leads over the next nine minutes. After falling behind 15-14, Lehigh’s senior co-captain Becky Guman found her touch, draining two treys as a part of an 11-5 run to close out the half, propelling the Mountain Hawks to a 25-20 advantage heading into the break.
Kinek led all scorers at the half with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field including a three. Guman added six points, while junior Lindsay Hoskins and freshman Elizabeth Sharlow each added a trey of their own. Kinek was the only Mountain Hawk to score a two-point field goal over the first 20 minutes as Lehigh went 4-for-11 (36 percent) from beyond the arc. Lehigh forced 13 Eagle turnovers and converted them into 10 points, but were outscored in the paint 10-4, an area that the Mountain Hawks thrive on.
The Eagles answered to start the second half, rattling off six straight points on multiple turnovers by the Mountain Hawks before Lehigh was forced to burn a timeout. American’s full court pressure continued to slow the Lehigh offense, holding the Mountain Hawks scoreless over the first five minutes to start the second half as the Eagles began on a 14-0 run.
"I thought that the first five minutes of the second half was the difference in the game," said Troyan. "We didn’t handle their full court pressure well and we didn’t defensively rebound very well and turned the ball over a lot during that stretch."
Trailing 34-25, the Mountain Hawks began a rally with an 8-2 run capped by a layup from Sharlow with just over 12 minutes to play to cut the score down to 36-33, forcing a timeout by the Eagles as Lehigh began to find the bottom of the basket.
Out of the break, American junior Alexis Dobbs, the Patriot League’s leading three-point shooter, knocked down her only trey of the game to break to momentarily halt the Lehigh momentum. But the Mountain Hawks again answered the American score with three of their own after junior Hilary Weaver converted a hoop and harm to knock the lead back down to three at 39-36.
From there, American put together a 12-2 run to take its largest lead of the night at 51-38 following one of four treys from American guard Ti’Asia McGeorge.
Lehigh continued its resiliency, rallying once again with a 12-2 run of its own to trim the Eagles’ advantage back down to three with just under four minutes to play after Hoskins connected on the front end of a pair of free throws following the final media timeout.
With momentum shifting Lehigh’s way, the Eagles rattled off five straight points to take a 58-50 lead with 2:05 to play. Guman again stepped up for the Mountain Hawks, connecting on a lay-up, but the Eagles replied with four consecutive points to take a 10-point lead with 33 seconds to play.
The Eagles withstood four points from sophomore Katie O’Reilly over the game’s final 20 seconds and escaped Stabler Arena with a 62-56 victory, collecting their second Patriot League win of the season and dropping Lehigh to 1-1 in league play.
Lehigh shot 30 percent from the field for the game, but the Eagles’ 41.7 percent average from beyond the arc and 16 bench points proved to be the difference in the game. Both teams went 11-for-13 from the charity stripe as both entered the game ranking in the top half of the Patriot League in free throw percentage. The Mountain Hawks held a 13-8 edge in fast break points but were outscored 30-24 in the paint and 23-16 off of turnovers (13-6 in the second half).
Guman and Hoskins each added eight points, while Weaver and O’Reilly chipped in with seven apiece.
Lehigh had started the 2013 calendar year with four consecutive wins, including a victory over Holy Cross last Saturday, but have now dropped four straight to American.
The Mountain Hawks will now travel to Hamilton, N.Y. to take on the Raiders of Colgate on Saturday, January 19 at 4 p.m. before returning home to the friendly confines of Stabler Arena for a 7 p.m. showdown with Bucknell on January 23.
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