Posted: February 22, 2006
LEWISBURG, Pa. – Down ten at halftime, Lehigh scored 44 second half points against the league’s top-rated defense, but it wasn’t enough as Bucknell remained undefeated in Patriot League play with an 81-70 win over the visiting Mountain Hawks in front of a boisterous 4,136 at Sojka Pavilion on Wednesday evening. In the process, Bucknell (22-4 overall, 13-0 Patriot League) becomes just the second team to score eighty or more points on the Mountain Hawks all season. Lehigh (18-10 overall, 11-2 Patriot League) saw its six-game Patriot League winning streak snapped.
“We’re a much better team defensively than we showed tonight,” said Lehigh head coach Billy Taylor after the game, “but you have to give credit to Bucknell for executing and making plays.”
With the win, Bucknell clinches the Patriot League regular season title, and with it, home-court advantage throughout the upcoming Patriot League tournament. The regular season crown is the first for the Bison since 1995.
The Lehigh setback, coupled with a Holy Cross win at Colgate Wednesday night, places the Mountain Hawks and Crusaders in a second place tie entering final game of the season – a match-up between Lehigh and Holy Cross in Worcester – on Sunday. The winner of that game will lock up the No. 2 seed and earn the right to host the first two rounds of the Patriot League tournament next week.
Bucknell came out strong in the first half, and used its defense to make a statement early. The Bison forced ten Lehigh turnovers in the first half to score 15 points on the other end. Offensively, Bucknell sank five-of-nine three-point tries over the first 20 minutes to take a 36-26 lead into the locker rooms at halftime.
Nine different Bucknell players got on the scoreboard in the first half, led by eight from center Chris McNaughton. Abe Badmus scored five points and came away with three first half steals for the home team. Lehigh was paced by six points from Joe Knight.
In all, Bucknell connected on over 45% of its first half opportunities, and the Bison out-rebounded Lehigh 17 to 14. Lehigh sank ten-of-25 first half shots.
The Mountain Hawks got as close as four points in the second half thanks to some strong defense of their own, as well as some timely long-range shooting. Lehigh drained six three’s in the second half.
Lehigh was able to get within four at 59-55 after Jose Olivero sank a three with 7:28 to play, but the the Mountain Hawks could get no closer, and the Bison took advantage of opportunities and extended the lead down the stretch.
For the night, the Mountain Hawks shot 46% from the floor, and Lehigh was 14-of-16 (87.5%) from the charity stripe. Bucknell connected on 47% of its shots, while sinking 26-of-35 free throws, or 74.3%.
Lehigh’s Olivero led all scorers with 21 points before fouling out in the game’s final minute. Knight added 15 points, including three three-pointers for Lehigh, and Kyle Neptune chipped in 12. Sophomore Bryan White led Lehigh’s efforts on the glass, grabbing ten rebounds.
Abe Badmus paced Bucknell, scoring 17 points and generating four steals. Three other Bison hit for double figures, including Charles Lee (16), Kevin Bettencourt (13), and Chris McNaughton (10).
“All we can do is get ready for Holy Cross,” noted a disappointed Taylor. “We’ll have to do a better job executing against them if we want to [win and earn home court advantage for the playoffs.”
Lehigh wraps up the regular season on Sunday, when the Mountain Hawks visit Holy Cross. Game time is set for just after 1:00 pm from Hart Recreation Center in Worcester, Mass., and the action will be televised live on CSTV (DirecTV 610) as part of the Patriot League television package. As always, the game can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 with Matt Kerr and Steve Lomangino beginning at 12:30 pm.