Posted: March 3, 2006
WORCESTER, Mass. – Third-seeded Lehigh survived a scare from No. 6 Colgate, and the Mountain Hawks earned a hard-fought 48-44 win over the Raiders in the opening round of the 2006 Patriot League tournament at the Hart Recreation Center on Friday evening. With the win, Lehigh (19-11) completes the three-game season sweep of Colgate. The Raiders end their season with a 10-18 mark.
More importantly, with the victory, the Mountain Hawks move on to the Patriot League semifinal game for the third straight year, and the sixth time in the last eight. Lehigh will take on the winner of No. 2 Holy Cross vs. No. 7 Navy at the Hart Center on Sunday afternoon.
Sophomore Bryan White led the Mountain Hawks with 13 points and 10 rebounds to record his first career double-double, while Jose Olivero and Kyle Neptune both added ten tallies in the win. Senior captain Mike Fischman pulled down ten boards of his own and added five points. The Raiders were led by Jon Simon’s 12 points, but as a team they turned it over 18 times and shot just 38 percent from the floor.
“At this time of year, each team is very hungry and very aware of what is at stake, so that raises the level of intensity,” explained head coach Billy Taylor following the victory. “I thought our defense was exceptional tonight, particularly down the stretch. Bryan White really gave us a burst in the second half; there was about a ten minute spurt there where he seemed to grab every rebound. Despite our offense struggling at times, we were able to rely on a great defensive effort.”
The Mountain Hawks struggled to shoot the ball for much of the first half, and after Lehigh went out to an early five-point lead in the game’s first four minutes, the Raiders rallied and ultimately forged ahead. Trailing by five, Lehigh closed the first half on a 5-0 run to tie the score at 23. After a missed Simon jumper, Bryan White skied for the rebound, and Mitch Gilfillan fed classmate Fischman on a pretty alley-oop to knot the game at 23 with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
In all, there was a pair of ties and three lead changes over the game’s first 20 minutes.
White scored six and pulled down six rebounds to lead the Mountain Hawks in the first half. As a team, Lehigh shot just 38% from the floor, while turning the ball over ten times.
Colgate’s Simon led all scorers in the first half with seven points. The ‘Gate shot just 38% from the floor as well, but the Raiders connected on five-of-seven three-point tries. Colgate turned the ball over 11 times, and each team corralled 15 rebounds.
In the second half, Lehigh was able to put together a nice run to pull ahead by seven on a lay up from Kyle Neptune with 11:49 to go, and went up by seven again when James Anderson grabbed his own miss and put it back in. A three-pointer by Olivero with 6:40 to go propelled Lehigh to its largest lead of the evening at ten points, but Colgate refused to go away without a fight. Simon hit a running lay up and Kendall Chones added a basket of his own to pull the Raiders to within four with 2:23 to go, and after Todd Checovich hit a lay up with 43 seconds to go, Lehigh’s lead was down to just two.
The Mountain Hawks struggled on their next possession and turned the ball over, but White came up huge on the defensive end, stealing the inbounds pass and was fouled right away. The Florida native calmly went to the free throw line and sank a pair to seal the victory, and send the Brown and White to the tournament semi finals for the third straight season.
Lehigh returns to the hardwood on Sunday, as the Mountain Hawks will take on Holy Cross in a Patriot League semifinal contest. Tip-off is set for just after 1:00 pm from the Hart Center on the Holy Cross campus in Worcester. The game will not be televised, but the action can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320, as well as on Lehighsports.com beginning at 12:30 pm. The renowned broadcast team of Matt Kerr and Greg Falkenbach ’72 will call the action.