Posted: November 14, 2005
LARAMIE, Wyo. – Lehigh dropped a hard fought 61-59 season opening contest to Northwestern on Sunday evening in the opening round of the 2005 BCA Invitational on the campus of the University of Wyoming.
The Mountain Hawks were solid on the boards, defensively and with their shot selection, but came up just short to a Big Ten team for the second consecutive season.
A pair of juniors, Jose Olivero and Kyle Neptune led the Brown and White in scoring with 19 and 16 points respectively, with both Mountain Hawks connecting on four three-pointers.
The Wildcats received a game-high 25 points from senior Vedran Vukusic, including the go-ahead jumper from the left baseline with just 12 seconds remaining.
Two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year Billy Taylor expressed his thoughs following the game. "I was very proud with the way our guys fought tonight. I thought the first twenty minutes of defense from us was unbelievable, with great energy and focus. Right now, we're thinking about the last five minutes of the game, but ultimately, I think the first five minutes of the second half was what deciced it. Northwestern really came out (from halftime) strong and forced us into some things we weren't comfortable with."
Lehigh was dominant on the back boards, out rebounding the Wildcats 37-24, including a career-high 11 from sophomore Bryan White and nine from senior James Anderson. Anderson added seven points, while White totaled six. Lehigh connected on nine shots from beyond the arc for the game, and 41 percent overall. Northwestern received 14 points from Tim Doyle on five of eight shooting, and hit on 41 percent of its field goals.
Behind a spirited defensive effort, the Mountain Hawks went up early by an 18-7 margin following an Olivero three-pointer and pretty pass that led to a lay up from Olivero to junior Jason Mgebroff. Northwestern then switched its defense, and cut into the Lehigh lead, trimming it to just two points with 4:46 remaining in the half, but the Brown and White answered with two Olivero jumpers, a free throw and a three-pointer, putting Lehigh ahead 28-18 with 2:30 remaining.
Northwestern would again cut into the lead, but the Mountain Hawks did take a 28-21 lead into the locker room. Olivero finished the first twenty minutes with 16 points, including eight in a row at one point, while Neptune connected on a pair of shots from deep for six tallies.
As the second half began, Northwestern made its move, eventually tying the contest at 37 at the 13:54 mark, the first tie of the night, and then went up by two on its next possession. But an Olivero feed to senior Mike Fischman for a dunk tied the score at 40. Following that point, the two teams traded the lead for the remainder of the game, with neither able to pull away.
Both teams fought hard down the stretch for every rebound and loose ball, and were tied nine times in the second half. Lehigh went up one after Fischman sunk two free throws with1:58 left, and got the ball right back when White stole it. Senior Mitch Gilfillan’s three-pointer came up just short however, giving Northwestern the ball, which resulted in a Mohamed Hachad free throw to tie the game. Lehigh could not convert on the ensuing possession, setting up Vukusic’s tough contested jumper.
Lehigh recorded seven steals for the game, and forced 11 turnovers. The Mountain Hawks turned the ball over themselves 19 times, but did record four emphatic blocked shots, one each from White and Neptune, and two from Fischman.
Lehigh returns to action on Monday afternoon when the Mountain Hawks take on Coppin State in the consolation round, beginning at 4:00 pm Eastern time. All of the action will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM, as well as lehighsports.com with Tom Fallon calling the action.