BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team opened a 16 point second-half lead, American came back to tie it, but the Mountain Hawks ended the game on a 17-4 run to pull out a 60-47 win over American Wednesday night in Stabler Arena. Senior Gabe Knutson led the way with 18 points while junior Anthony D’Orazio tied a season-high 15 points and junior Mackey McKnight dished a career-high nine assists. With the win, Lehigh head coach Brett Reed tied the school record with his 112th career victory as the Mountain Hawks improve to 18-5 overall and 8-1 in Patriot League play.
“We had built a pretty substantial lead with solid defense,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Our offense was not spectacular, but we were flowing. We hit just an offensive lull for a while where we could not score the basketball. We got a bit apprehensive because our offense was off kilter.
“American made some shots, but we responded,” Reed continued. “That was pretty impressive that we were able to withstand that type of pressure. Fortunately, our players continue to pull together, they didn’t lose faith and they ended up creating some offense towards the end to complement some pretty solid defense.”
Knutson’s 18 points included 4-of-5 from three-point range as the Mountain Hawks knocked down 53 percent for the game (10-of-19). Senior Holden Greiner added nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three of Lehigh’s six blocks. McKnight posted nine points and four rebounds to go with his career-high nine assists.
Only one American player finished with double-figure points as Stephen Lumpkins posted 10 with 13 rebounds. Three others added seven points apiece. It marked the fifth time this year Lehigh has allowed 50 or fewer points, all coming in the last 10 games.
“There was a lot of unity on our defensive front,” said Reed. “We had to worry about our coverage on the interior. For us to be able to neutralize Lumpkins and [Tony] Wroblicky, yet still defend the three-point line with as many shooters as they have, it required people to be in the right spots, communicating, working together and ultimately playing with a high sense of urgency for our closeouts as well.”
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively. With Lehigh trailing 4-3, Knutson added his second three-pointer as Lehigh took a 10-4 lead at the first media timeout. Sophomore Stefan Cvrkalj followed by taking a McKnight feed and knocking down a trey. The run extended to 12-0 following a Schaefer layup which made it 15-4.
The Mountain Hawks went up 25-14 following a pair of McKnight free throws with five minutes left in the first half, but American pulled within 28-20 after one half of play.
Knutson led the way with 12 first-half points, including 4-of-4 from three-point range. Greiner added seven of his nine points in the first as Lehigh shot 42 percent (10-of-24) and 67 percent from three-point range (6-of-9) in the first half.
The Mountain Hawks began the second half on an 8-0 run to take a 36-20 lead with 18:11 on the clock, which forced American to call timeout. However, the Eagles wouldn’t go away. With Lehigh leading 38-22, American answered by scoring 21 of the next 26 points. Back-to-back threes from Kyle Kager and Mike Bersch tied the score at 43 with 6:31 to go.
Lehigh immediately responded, going on a 13-0 run capped off by a D’Orazio steal and fastbreak dunk to make it 56-43 with 3:10 remaining. The sides traded baskets the rest of the way, scoring four points apiece, as the Mountain Hawks came away with their fourth straight win and ninth in their last 10 games.
Lehigh shot 39 percent from the field (20-of-51) and 53 percent from long range (10-of-19) while American came in at 35 percent (19-of-54) and 23 percent from three-point range (5-of-22). The Eagles won the battle of the boards, 40-29.
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The Mountain Hawks head to Colgate on Saturday before returning home to host Bucknell next Monday (Feb. 18) on CBS Sports Network.