Posted: January 21, 2006
EASTON, Pa. – Behind a 49-point effort from its junior class of Jose Olivero, Kyle Neptune and Jason Mgebroff, Lehigh downed archrival Lafayette 76-58 at Kirby Sports Center on Saturday afternoon, as the Mountain Hawks remained perfect in Patriot League play at 5-0. Lehigh goes to 12-8 overall with the victory, and has now won seven straight games, its longest winning streak since the 2002-03 season. Lafayette was led on offense by Andrei Capusan’s 16 points, as the Leopards fall to 8-10 overall and 2-3 in league action.
Lehigh shot an incredible 66 percent from the field on the day, including a lights-out 72 percent clip in the second half, as the Mountain Hawks connected on 18 of 25 field goals, and seven of ten from downtown in the final 20 minutes. Lehigh handed out 18 assists and had just 15 turnovers, with senior captains Joe Knight and Mitch Gilfillan dishing out five and four helpers respectively. Knight also added ten points, while Mike Fischman pulled down six boards, and Neptune and Bryan White cleared the backboards five times apiece.
Head Coach Billy Taylor discussed what it meant to beat the Leopards for the first time in his time at Lehigh in Easton. “Our guys obviously shot the ball extremely well this afternoon. We had great balance with four players in double figures and also forced Lafayette into some things on their end that they did not want to run.” Taylor added, “It feels good to get this win here, and to also be 5-0 in league play, but there is a long road ahead, and we will just focus our attention on the next game.”
Both teams came out firing at the onset of the game, with neither squad able to open up much of a lead. Lafayette went up five at the 17:20 mark when Everest Schmidt scored on a lay-up for the Leopards. Following that point though, Lehigh erupted for a ten-point run as Neptune sunk a free throw, Fischman and Mgebroff scored three straight buckets between them, and Gilfillan drained a three to put the visitors up 12-7 with 13:33 left in the half.
The Leopards then fought their way back and went up by six on a three-pointer by Pat Betley with 8:12 remaining in the half, but Lehigh quickly came back and tied the game for the fourth time in the opening 20 minutes when Olivero scored on a fast break lay up. The teams traded buckets for the remainder of the half, with Lehigh taking a 30-28 lead into the locker room.
As the second half began, Lehigh went on another run, as Olivero and Neptune canned back-to-back three’s and Olvero added another two to push the Mountain Hawks lead up to ten with only 1:35 off of the clock. Lafayette continued to battle though, and went up one, 41-40, on a three-pointer by freshman Andrew Brown.
But following that point, Lehigh took control, going up by 17 on a fast break lay-up by Knight with 4:14 to go in the contest. The Mountain Hawks would push their lead to as many as 18 on two occasions, the last coming with eight seconds left when Knight drilled a long three.
For the game, Lafayette shot 38 percent, but just 33 in the second half. Lehigh out rebounded the Leopards 28-27 for the game, and forced 13 turnovers. Andrew Brown added 15 points for Lafayette, all coming via the three-point shot in the second half.
Lehigh returns to action on Wednesday evening when the Mountain Hawks welcome 2005 Patriot League Champion Bucknell to Stabler Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:05 and tickets can be purchased at the Lehigh Athletics Ticket Office, located in Grace Hall during normal business hours, by calling 610-7LU-GAME or at anytime on lehighsports.com.