Posted: February 26, 2005
Easton, PA –
Down by ten with a minute to play, Lehigh mounted a ferocious rally but fell just short as the Mountain Hawks fell to archrival Lafayette 81-78 Saturday afternoon at the Kirby Sports Center. Lehigh was down by as much as 15 in the second half and the late surge simply was not enough as the Mountain Hawks lose their fourth straight game and wrap up the regular season with a 13-14 record and finish regular season league play at 7-7. Lafayette
is 9-18 on the year, 5-9 in the Patriot League
The first ten minutes saw Lehigh jump to an early lead, but the Leopards came roaring back going up by as many as nine. The Mountain Hawks battled all the way back as the lead went back and forth several times before Lafayette’s Jamaal Douglas buried a pair of three’s to put the Leopards up 35-26 at the break. Joe Knight scored nine points in the opening half for the Mountain Hawks, who shot 43 percent from the field in the period.
The Leopards would extend their lead to 13 early in the second half, before Lehigh tightened its defense and went on a run to cut the deficit to five. That’s as close as the Mountain Hawks would get, as Lafayette slowly re-built its lead back up to 15 points with 4:45 left to play. Lehigh would make one final run.
Down 10 with one minute to play sophomore Jose Olivero connected on a three pointer, then Kyle Neptune stole the ensuing inbounds pass and converted a lay-up. Two Olivero free throws put the Brown and White within three. After a Lafayette timeout, Neptune tied up the inbounds pass, giving the ball back to Lehigh, down three with 37 seconds to play. Jose Olivero put in a lay-up off the ensuing inbounds, but the Leopards connected on their free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. Lehigh had one final chance but Jose Olivero and Joe Knight both missed three pointers with 11 seconds to play.
“I can live with Jose and Joe getting those looks at the end,” said head coach Billy Taylor. “Some days they fall and some days they don’t.”
The Mountain Hawks placed three players in double figures led by Knight’s 21 points. Jason Mgebroff chipped in 18 and Neptune added 11 points and seven rebounds. Sean Knitter and Jamaal Douglas led Lafayette with 16.
“Our guys fought hard today,” Taylor said. “We got down but battled back and now we have to go into the tourney as a wildcard as compared to last year when we were the favorite.”
Lehigh will head to Worcester for the Patriot League tournament starting Friday. The Mountain Hawks will be seeded either fourth or fifth and will face either American or Colgate in the first round. Lehigh’s first game will get underway at 5:30 from the Hart Center in Worcester.