BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Trailing 46-40 at the half, the Lehigh men’s basketball team used a 28-5 run to break a 58-58 tie on its way to a dominating 89-69 win over Colgate on Saturday evening. With the win, the Mountain Hawks (19-7, 7-3 Patriot League) jump back into a second-place tie with American, who lost to Holy Cross earlier in the day. The Raiders (7-18, 1-9) shot 68 percent from the field in the first half before Lehigh responded to shoot 71 percent in the second.
“I thought our bench production was terrific tonight,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Everyone came in and provided energy, providing an added element to our team to complement the starters.”
A balanced team effort saw four Lehigh players reach double-figure points. Junior Gabe Knutson was the story, scoring 21 to eclipse 1,000 for his career. In doing so, he became the 30th player in school history and 83rd in Patriot League history to reach the milestone.
Junior C.J. McCollum led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds, good for his 17th-career double-double, fourth this season and third in his last five games. He finished 6-of-13 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free throw line while adding six assists and five steals.
Seniors John Adams and Jordan Hamilton added 10 points apiece while sophomore Mackey McKnight had nine. The Mountain Hawks’ bench also impressed, led by eight points from senior Justin Maneri along with three points from sophomore B.J. Bailey and two from freshman Conroy Baltimore. Bailey and Baltimore each added four rebounds, with Bailey tallying a season-high 20 minutes.
“A lot of energy came from B.J. Bailey and his contributions tonight,” said Reed. “I couldn’t be happier for this young man. He came in, was dialed in with no hesitation. He stepped right into his first shot without thinking twice or holding back. He showed tremendous athleticism as well, keeping balls alive and getting second chances.”
Pat Moore scored a game-high 23 points for Colgate, including a sizzling 7-of-8 from three-point range.
The Raiders jumped out to a quick lead, going up 5-0 before Lehigh got its first points via a McKnight three-pointer with 17:03 remaining in the first half. Colgate went up by as much as eight (19-11) with 12:16 to go before the Mountain Hawks responded with a 10-2 run to pull even at 21 with 9:20 on the clock. Hamilton started the run with four straight points before Bailey knocked down a three-pointer just 28 seconds after entering the game.
With the score tied at 30, Colgate began to distance itself, scoring nine of the next 12 points, capped off by a Mike Venezia three-pointer, to make it 39-33 with 2:55 remaining. The Raiders’ lead swelled to 46-38 following a Brandon James three-pointer, but McCollum knocked down two free throws to pull within 46-40 at the half.
Colgate extended its lead to seven following a Mitch Rolls trey, but Lehigh staged an 8-0 run, which began with an Adams three and ended with a Knutson layup. Then, with the score tied at 58, the Mountain Hawks ran away with it, scoring 28 of the next 33 points over the next 10:02. The season-high crowd of 2,217 came to its feet after a Maneri three-point play with 11:55 remaining. Maneri went on to score four more points in a row, followed by an Adams fastbreak layup then a highlight-reel dunk by McCollum to make it 71-61 with 9:15 remaining.
That set up Knutson, who knocked down a pair of free throws with 7:34 remaining to make it 73-61, giving him his 14th and 15th points of the evening and 999th and 1,000th points of his career. Knutson continued his hot streak with six more unanswered points, forcing Colgate to call timeout with Lehigh leading 79-61 as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
“Personal stuff really doesn’t matter to me,” said Knutson. “It’s good to get a win, especially when we really need it. It’s nice, but at the same time I only have one ring, and we’re trying to get two more.
Lehigh’s lead reached 23 (84-61) before Colgate’s John Brandenburg ended the Raiders’ 7:46 scoreless drought with a pair of free throws. The Mountain Hawks easily hung on from there, falling just one point shy of its fourth 90-point effort of the season.
The Mountain Hawks shot 51 percent from the field (27-of-53) and 47 percent from three-point range (8-of-17). After 68 percent shooting in the first half, Colgate shot only 33 percent in the second to finish at an even 50 percent for the game (26-of-52) and 58 percent from long distance (11-of-19). Lehigh controlled the boards, 33-22.
Lehigh travels to Bucknell on Thursday to face the Bison at 7 p.m. in a CBS Sports Network tilt. The Mountain Hawks will return home next Saturday (Feb. 18) for their Senior Day game vs. archrival Lafayette. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. Tickets for all home games may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.