Posted: February 27, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Behind its strongest defensive effort of the season and a career-high 17 points by freshman Rob Keefer, Lehigh downed Bucknell 50-39 at Stabler Arena on Wednesday evening to move into a four-way tie for third place in the Patriot League. The 39 points scored by the Bison were the second fewest allowed by Lehigh during Patriot League play, second only to Navy’s 38 points in 2004. With the win the Mountain Hawks improve to 13-14 overall and 6-7 in the Patriot League. The Bison fall to 11-17 overall and are now also in a tie for third with Lehigh, Colgate and Lafayette at 6-7 in league action.
Lehigh head coach Brett Reed spoke about the Mountain Hawks defensive effort following the game. “We established what we needed to do from a defensive standpoint early on tonight. This was a five-man effort with everyone really focusing in on what their job was.”
Reed continued, “It was critical to have Rob (Keefer) step up in that light for us. If we can get a fourth consistent scorer, we can be that much more effective as a team.” Reed ended, “Rob did a great job defensively as well though. He was zeroed in on what our game plan was and just played one heck of a basketball game at both ends tonight.”
Keefer scored his 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting and a perfect four-of-four showing at the free throw line. Sophomores Marquis Hall and Zahir Carrington added 12 and 11 points, respectively, while senior Bryan White pulled down eight rebounds and scored six points. Lehigh harassed Bucknell into a 33 percent shooting performance and forced 17 Bison turnovers. The Mountain Hawks shot just 33 percent from the field themselves, but hit 11 more free throws (17 to 6).
Bucknell did not place a single player in double figures, as senior Darren Mastrolaolo led the Bison with eight points. Todd O’Brien pulled down a game-high nine boards, while no Bucknell player had more than two assists.
The game started out slow with the score knotted at two following the first media timeout. Lehigh was able to extend to a 10-4 lead following a jumper by Carrington, but Bucknell continued to keep it close throughout the opening 20 minutes. A jumper by Stephen Tyree with 6:42 remaining in the half made the score 14-10 in favor of the Mountain Hawks and an O’Brien jumper on the next possession made it a two-point game.
Bucknell again got to within a single bucket when senior John Griffin drilled a three-pointer at the 3:26 mark, but Lehigh scored the game’s next seven points on a three-pointer from Hall and four foul shots from Keefer and junior Phil Anderson to take a 26-17 lead into halftime.
Both teams struggled in the first half as Lehigh hit on 38 percent from the floor and Bucknell sank just 33 percent of its shots. The difference came at the charity stripe, where Lehigh hit seven-of-eight attempts and Buckell was 0-of-5. The Bison out rebounded the Brown and White 18 to 15 with the teams combining for 14 turnovers.
A jumper by Keefer right out of the gate extended Lehigh’s lead to 11 points at 28-17, but four straight points by the Bison made the score 28-21. The Mountain Hawks scored the next eight points however and went ahead 36-21 at the 13:48 mark when Keefer hit yet another jumper.
The lead swelled to 19 following an Anderson steal that resulted in a White dunk off a nice feed from freshman Prentice Small and after Small sank one-of-two at the line, the Mountain Hawks were in front 20 with 7:59 left. From there Lehigh coasted to its tenth home win of the season, marking the fourth time in the last six seasons the Mountain Hawks have posted double digit victories inside of Stabler Arena. The win also gave Lehigh its first season sweep of Bucknell since the 2002-03 season.
Lehigh returns to action on Friday evening when the Mountain Hawks take on the Holy Cross Crusaders in what is now a huge showdown with seeding implications. The top four seeds in the Patriot League will host a first round game in next week's PL Tournament. Friday's contest will be shown live nationwide on ESPNU and will start at the special time of 9:00 with Bob Socci and John Celestand providing the commentary. Fans that cannot make it out to the game can listen on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 or Lehighsports.com beginning at 8:30 with veteran Matt Kerr and Lehigh Athletics Hall of Famer Greg Falkenbach '72 on the call.
Tickets to the game can be purchased for $5 by calling 610-7LU-GAME or by logging onto Lehighsports.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the arena box office prior to tip-off for $8.