ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team bounced back from Sunday’s loss to Lafayette in a big way, jumping out to a 10-point halftime lead and extending it from there, as the Mountain Hawks topped the Midshipmen 71-49 on Wednesday evening in Alumni Hall. Sophomore Stefan Cvrkalj paced the offense with 18 points on five three-pointers, while senior Holden Greiner posted his fifth-career double-double (and second in the last four games) with 12 points and 10 rebounds. It marked Lehigh’s sixth straight win over Navy as the Mountain Hawks improve to 15-5 overall and 5-1 in league play.
“We’ve generally been a very resilient team, a team that’s been focused and together, and that was on display this evening,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We had our first opportunity against an extended zone offensive attack. I think we learned throughout the course of the game and attacked it more successfully, particularly in the second half the way the ball was moving. That’s a characteristic of our team: being unselfish, the ball moving around, and everyone working together on the offensive end.”
Cvrkalj finished 6-of-11 from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point range. His lone two-pointer turned into an old fashioned three-point play. Cvrkalj became the seventh different Mountain Hawk over the last nine games to lead Lehigh in scoring. Junior B.J. Bailey added 10 points while sophomore Corey Schaefer added eight points and junior Mackey McKnight had seven points and seven assists.
“[Stefan’s] a good shooter,” said Reed. “We’ve continued to stick with him so his confidence level remains high. I have to give his teammates a lot of credit for finding him open opportunities so he didn’t have to force shots. The fact Stefan was patient and took good looks ultimately allowed him to be out there on the floor. I wanted to reward him by playing him extended minutes (27) because he fills an important role as a shooter for our program. When he’s knocking down shots like that, it makes our offensive attack that much more prolific.”
Will Kelly led Navy with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Worth Smith also had 11 and Phil Guglielmo tallied 10.
Navy was quick out of the gate, taking an 8-1 lead after a monstrous one-handed dunk from Kelly. Bailey answered with a three just 12 seconds later to pull within 8-4 with 15:56 on the clock. That sparked a 14-0 Lehigh run as the Mountain Hawks used strong defense to keep the Midshipmen off the board for the next 8:48.
Schaefer scored four points in that run while Cvrkalj added his first three-pointer of the evening. Schaefer rounded out the run with a layup to give Lehigh a 15-8 lead with 8:13 left in the first half.
Navy answered with the next five points to pull within 15-13 before senior Gabe Knutson ended it with a three-point play. The teams traded baskets, then with Lehigh up 18-16, the Mountain Hawks went on a 10-2 run to close the half and take a 28-18 lead after 20 minutes of play. The run included threes from Bailey and Cvrkalj, and a long jumper from Greiner as time expired.
Bailey, Cvrkalj and Knutson each scored six first-half points to lead the way. The Mountain Hawks shot 38 percent in the first half (11-of-29) while holding Navy to just 28 percent shooting (8-of-29).
Lehigh opened a 13-point lead at 33-20 following a McKnight three-pointer. An emphatic drive from Bailey finished with a slam, making it 35-20. However, Navy answered with the next seven points as a Tillman Dunbar three-point play pulled the Midshipmen back within 35-27 with 16:35 left in the second half.
The Mountain Hawks immediately answered with an impressive 11-0 run to go up 19 (46-27). Bailey began the run with another drive to the hoop and bank shot off the glass. Greiner followed with an old fashioned three-point play following an offensive rebound. The lead reached 19 following a pair of Justin Goldsborough free throws, then up to 21 after a Cvrkalj three-pointer to make it 49-28 with 11:45 on the clock.
Navy answered with four straight, but the Mountain Hawks responded to go up as much as 24 (65-41) following yet another Cvrkalj three with 5:35 to go. Navy wouldn’t go away, staging a 6-0 run which extended to 8-2, but Lehigh extended its lead as a runner by senior Cory Goodman rounded out the scoring.
Lehigh shot 46 percent for the game (25-of-54) and 33 percent from three-point range (9-of-27) while the Midshipmen finished at 29 percent (19-of-66) and 13 percent from long distance (3-of-23). Lehigh won the battle of the boards, 45-37.
“If I was to characterize what this win was about, it was about learning, it was about togetherness because we showed some resiliency bouncing back,” said Reed. “And ultimately it was about unselfishness. There was a great deal of unselfishness on display this evening where the ball was moving for a number of extra passes. People could’ve shot, but found someone who was even more open. I give our guys a great deal of credit for pulling together.”
The Mountain Hawks will close out the first round of Patriot League play on Sunday (Feb. 3) at Army.
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