Posted: January 25, 2006
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh and Bucknell engaged in yet another hard fought down to the wire affair, but for the first time since 2000, the Bison emerged victorious at Stabler Arena, downing the Mountain Hawks 59-54 in front of a raucous crowd of 3,556 on Wednesday evening. With the loss, Lehigh sees its seven-game winning streak come to an end, and falls to 12-9 overall and 5-1 in league play, while the Bison claim sole possession of first place in the league at 6-0 and improve to 15-3 overall. Senior captain Joe Knight led the Brown and White with 21 points, while junior Jose Olivero added 19, and for Bucknell, senior Kevin Bettencourt tallied 16 points on the night.
“It was a big game and both teams played hard,” explained Knight following the game. “We had a lot of turnovers, but that came from us being overaggressive and trying to make plays. This was a great crowd for us tonight. It really got us ready to play and made the game that much better.”
For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot 39.6 percent from the field, while Bucknell hit on 35 percent of its shots. Lehigh out rebounded its opponent 36-34 and handed out 11 assists, but did turn the ball over 22 times. Knight pulled down a team-high nine boards on the evening, while senior James Anderson ripped down eight and senior Mitch Gilfillan dished out five assists. Bucknell’s leading rebounder was junior Donald Brown who pulled down ten caroms, while senior Charles Lee dished out three helpers.
Lehigh came out strong jumping out to a 10-4 lead on the strength of a three-pointer by Olivero at the 12:58 mark, but the Bison trimmed the lead to just one on a lay up by junior Chris McNaughton at the 10:12 mark of the opening half. Lehigh maintained its lead for the remainder of the opening half, going up by seven with 8:53 to go on a three-pointer by junior Kyle Neptune and again upped it to seven with 5:18 left on a jumper by Knight.
The Bison would tie the score at 20 with 1:41 to go when Brown sunk a pair of free throws, but Knight came down and sunk a three to push the Brown and White up 23-20. Lee then countered with his own three to again tie the score, this time at 23. A three-point play by Olivero with just six seconds to go gave Lehigh a 26-23 lead heading into the locker room though.
In the second half, the intensity continued to rise, and the teams continued to battle. A three from Bettencourt tied the game at 31 with 16:32 to go, and a jumper by McNaughton put the visitors ahead by two with 15:47 remaining. The two squads then went 3:48 without scoring a point until Knight canned a jumper to tie the score at 33 with 11:59 left. Bucknell was able to push its lead up to five on a three from Bettencourt at the 5:07 mark, but the Mountain Hawks refused to go down without a fight. Sophomore Bryan White made one of two free throws to pull the home team to within four with 3:13 to go, but that was as close as Lehigh would get.
The Bison upped their advantage to ten with 57 ticks left after Badmus sank a pair from the charity stripe, and although Olivero and Knight would both hit deep three’s in the closing seconds, it was not meant to be, as Lehigh lost for the first time in the 2006 calendar year.
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday evening as the Mountain Hawks welcome the Holy Cross Crusaders to Stabler Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:35 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.
Photos (c) 2006, Chris Christian/Lehigh Athletics.