Posted: January 9, 2008
PHILADELPHIA – In its final non-conference game of the season, Lehigh edged out Penn 53-49 at The Palestra Wednesday night. It was Lehigh’s second straight win over an Ivy League opponent and third of the season, as the Mountain Hawks now head into league play riding a two-game winning streak. Tricia Smith led Lehigh with her second double-double of the year, ending the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Courtney Dentler had another strong outing as well, ending with a career high nine points and four rebounds. The win brings Lehigh’s record to 8-7 on the year, while the Quakers fall to 3-11.
“Once again our defense played terrific and really created some opportunities for our offense in the second half,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “We gave up some uncontested shots in the first half but we stepped it up in the second half and did a great job of shutting them down.”
Penn jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on field goals by Carrie Biemer, Anca Popovici and Kelly Scott. Lehigh got the board on a free throw by Haly Crites, but would not get its first field goal of the game till 16:38, when Melissa Rich put back a rebound to cut the score to 7-3.
Lehigh tied the game at 9-9 on a pair of free throws by Claire Sullivan but the Quakers went on an 11-2 run over the next two minutes to take their largest lead of the half at 20-12. The Brown and White would go a run of its own, scoring seven straight points to cut the deficit to 20-19. Each team would add a couple of field goals as Penn went into halftime with a 25-21 lead.
While Lehigh was able to keep the score close, the team struggled to shoot from the field, hitting just 24.1% of its shots, and was out-rebounded 20-18. Courtney Dentler led all Lehigh players at the half with five points, while Tricia Smith added four points and four rebounds.
“Tricia is a difference-maker and playmaker out there,” added Troyan. “She gets the defense going and really makes it difficult for the opposing team’s offense to do anything.”
The Quakers were led on offense by Scott with 13 points in the first half. She connected on five-of-eight field goals, including two-of-three from three-point range. Popovici added another five points for the Quakers, who shot 38.5% from the field and 40% from three-point range in the half.
Lehigh came out flying to start the second half, as Kaela Pearce and Erica Prosser hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Mountain Hawks their first lead of the game, 27-25, at 18:19. Both teams started to heat up from the floor as they battled back-and-forth over the next six minutes, before Penn would take back a seven point lead with 7:13 to play, on a pair of three-pointers from Amy Donovan.
Once again the Brown and White fought its way back into the game and took the lead back on a great play by Dentler. The freshmen forward missed her three-point attempt, but did a great job of following her own shot and grabbed the rebound and put it back in to give Lehigh a 45-44 lead with 3:34 to play.
The Mountain Hawks would not relinquish the lead over the final three and a half minutes, holding for their eighth victory of the season. Prosser tied Smith for the team led with 12 points, including six-for-six shooting from the free throw line for Lehigh, who closed the game on a 16-5 run.
Lehigh shot 42.1% from the field in the second half and held Penn to just 36% shooting. The Quakers were led on offense by Scott, who was held to just two points in the second half, finishing the game with 15. Donovan and Burgess each chipped in with six.
“Coming out the half we knew we had to play 20 minutes of hard defense and we really stepped it up,” said Dentler. “Playing tough, close games like this is really going to get us ready for Patriot League play this weekend.”
The Mountain Hawks will be back in action on Saturday, when they open up league play against the American Eagles, in Washington, D.C. The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., and can be heard in the Lehigh Valley on 91.3 WLVR-FM and around the world on Lehighsports.com, with Ryan Chadwick calling the action.