Posted: February 23, 2005
Bethlehem, PA – For the second straight game Lehigh fell behind in the second half and made a comeback, but the Mountain Hawks could not complete it and fell to American 65-61 at Stabler Arena on Wednesday evening on Senior Night.
On a night when the Mountain Hawks honored Nick Monserez, Earl Nurse and Dayne Mickelson, it was sophomore Jose Olivero that led the Brown and White with 19 points on six of nine shooting.
American was led by Jason Thomas’s career-high of 27 tallies on 10 of 15 shooting.
With the loss, Lehigh falls to .500 at 13-13, 7-6 in the league, while the Eagles improve to 14-11, 7-6 in league action.
After being down by nine with 6:05 left in the game, the Brown and White staged their furious comeback. Tight defense, strong rebounding and sharp shooting brought the Mountain Hawks to two at 3:02 on a three-pointer by Olivero. American scored four straight to go up six, but a steal by Joe Knight led to a Nurse slam dunk, which brought the Mountain Hawks to within four with under one minute. Nurse then sank one of two free throws with under 50 seconds left, and the Mountain Hawks were forced to foul on the next possession.
Linas Lekavicius then went to the line and sank both shots, making the score 63-58 in favor of American with 21.1 ticks left on the clock. Olivero took a pass from Knight on the ensuing possession and drilled a three-pointer to cut the Eagles lead to 63-61 with 16.3 seconds remaining, but Thomas was fouled and hit both free throws and after Olivero missed a three, time ran out on Lehigh.
Nurse scored 12 points in his final regular season home game for Lehigh and also pulled down six boards, while Knight added ten tallies and seven assists. Jason Megbroff was the fourth Mountain Hawk in double figures with 11 points. American placed just one player in double digits, which was Thomas, but had 18 assists on its 22 field goals, and held the Mountain Hawks to just 20 percent shooting from three-point range.
The two teams were even for most of the first half with neither team able to open up a lead of more than ten points which American held with just 5:14 remaining in the half. Despite the two teams being close on the scoreboard for the majority of the half, Lehigh held the lead just once, at the 13:03 mark off of a jumper from freshman Bryan White that put the Brown and White ahead 6-5. Jason Thomas led the Eagles in the half with 11 points on four of six shooting, including three of four from beyond the arc, while Patrick Okpwae grabbed six boards, the high in the half.
Lehigh was led by Olivero’s seven points on two of four shooting, while Jason Mgebroff added six points and two boards in the opening twenty minutes. Joe Knight dished out three assists and stole the ball once in the half, as Lehigh shot 41 percent but went to the locker room down by one, 28-27.
In the second half, American was able to extend its lead to as many as x at the x mark, but the Mountain Hawks refused to go away, continually trimming down the lead. Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 25 in the second, including two more shots from downtown.
Head Coach Billy Taylor was pleased with the effort of his team on Wednesday night, but would have liked to see the Mountain Hawks win. “I liked our effort tonight much better than our last game (vs. Navy on Saturday), we executed better tonight, but we just could not win this one.” Taylor continued, “I liked the energy of our team, especially guys off the bench, like Erik Smith, but you have to give Jason Thomas credit for hitting some big shots tonight. We did a nice job of containing their big scorers, like Andre Ingram and Matej Cresnik, but Thomas did hurt us with some shots down the stretch.”
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday afternoon as the Mountain Hawks travel to Easton to take on archrival Lafayette, with tip-off set for just after 1:00. The game will be televised live nationwide on College Sports Television (CSTV), DirecTV Channel 610 beginning at 1:00, and tape delayed on WFMZ Channel 69 beginning at 4:00. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM, as well as lehighsports.com beginning at 12:30.
Lehigh needs to win its game, and receive some help from Navy in its game versus American in order for the Moutain Hawks to secure the number three seed in next week's Patriot League Tournament.