Posted: December 31, 2007
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In a game that featured five ties and ten lead changes, Penn State ran its record to 8-0 at home with a hard-fought 81-68 victory over visiting Lehigh inside Bryce Jordan Center on Monday afternoon. The setback snapped the Mountain Hawks’ three-game winning streak, while Penn State improves to 8-4 with the victory. Sophomore Marquis Hall Lehigh with 19 points, including five three pointers, while classmate Zahir Carrington added 15 points.
“I’m proud of our effort, the way we competed, against a Big Ten opponent,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed said after the game. “In the end, we didn’t do a good enough job in transition, and give them credit – they were able to take advantage of the opportunities they were given.”
Lehigh (6-6) failed to be intimidated by its Big Ten opponent early, as the Mountain Hawks battled the Nittany Lions virtually point-for-point despite a stellar first half from All-Big Ten selection Geary Claxton. The Penn State senior was 8-of-10 from the floor, scoring 21 first half points while pulling down six rebounds.
Despite Claxton’s efforts, Lehigh remained in the game, sinking over 55% of its field goal attempts in the first half. The Mountain Hawks also did a good job controlling the basketball, committing only one first half turnover.
Lehigh jumped out to its first lead when freshman guard Prentice Small knocked down a three as the shot clock expired, putting the Mountain Hawks on top by a 15-14 score at the 12:51 mark.
Lehigh eventually took a seven point lead – its largest of the half – at 33-26 with 5:36 remaining as freshman Rob Keefer knocked down a three-pointer. In all, the Mountain Hawks were 6-of-10 from beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes, including two makes apiece from Keefer and Hall.
The Nittany Lions rallied to close the first stanza on an 11-5 run to tie the game at 40-40 at the conclusion of the first half. The 40-point effort from the Brown and White marked Lehigh’s biggest first half offensive output so far this season.
No Lehigh player hit for double figures in the game’s first 20 minutes, though Hall and Keefer scored eight points each.
In the second half, the Mountain Hawks were able to hold Claxton in check, limiting the senior to just one field goal. However, Jamelle Cornley took over inside, scoring eight second half points inside, and Danny Morrisey found the hot hand outside, scoring nine points after the break as the Nittany Lions pulled away.
Lehigh shot 49% for the game, but allowed the Nittany Lions to connect on 50% of their shots (28-of-56). Penn State controlled the glass, out-rebounding the visitors 38 to 28 on the afternoon.
Keefer finished with eight points while pulling down seven rebounds, and junior captain Matt Szalachowski scored eight points and dished out six assists without committing a turnover.
Claxton paced the Lions with 29 points and ten rebounds.
Lehigh returns to action on Wednesday evening when the Mountain Hawks travel to the Big Apple to take on Columbia at Levien Gym. Tip-off is set for 7:00 and all of the action can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 as well as Lehighsports.com with Matt Kerr providing the commentary.