EASTON, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team opened a 10-point second-half lead, but Lafayette responded with a 14-2 run and exploded for 46 second-half points to down the Mountain Hawks, 79-71 in front of 3,433 fans at the Kirby Sports Center Sunday. Senior Holden Greiner scored a career-high 27 points, 21 coming in the second half to lead the offense. The loss marks Lehigh’s third in a row as the Mountain Hawks fall into a second-place tie with Lafayette, who’s won three straight.
“That Lafayette team on the whole played extremely well,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We went through a stretch where we gave up 17 points in a four-minute media segment, and that was a big difference in the game. We weren’t able to get the stops that we needed. Then we were in striking distance and they ended up getting multiple possessions.”
“That was an excellent game by two good teams. I don’t think anyone gave that one up; it was two teams that were trying to grab a game.”
Greiner finished 10-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 from three-point range to break his previous career high of 24 set last season at Michigan State. Knutson scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half, finishing 8-of-14 from the field while grabbing eight boards as well. Junior Mackey McKnight scored all 11 of his points in the first half while adding four assists.
“A very good efforts from [Holden and Gabe], unfortunately goes to no avail in the win column,” said Reed. “Being seniors, their sense of urgency is heightened this time of year. Those are the types of performances I hope we can continue to have from them moving forward. We need that strong contribution of leadership and unity, as well as offensive production.”
Greiner and Knutson scored Lehigh’s first 20 second-half points, as they combined for 29 of Lehigh’s 32 in the second (the other being a B.J. Bailey three).
Lehigh’s offense was clicking in the early going, especially Knutson who had nine points less than seven minutes into the game. The Mountain Hawks took a 6-3 lead before a Bryce Scott trey tied it with 17:41 on the clock. The teams went back and forth, tied at eight, 10 and 13.
With Lehigh down 15-13, Bailey made a drive to the basket and finished a three-point play to give the Mountain Hawks the lead back with 10:35 on the clock.
Four straight points from McKnight gave Lehigh its largest lead in the early going at five (20-15) with 9:12 remaining. A Dan Trist free throw pulled the Leopards within 24-22, but the Mountain Hawks answered with three on the ensuing possession. An offensive rebound after a Knutson made free throw led to a Justin Goldsborough layup off a nifty feed from Anthony D’Orazio to make it 27-22 with 6:32 on the clock.
The Leopards pulled within one on multiple occasions, but Lehigh had an answer. Up 34-33, the Mountain Hawks went on a 5-0 run to take their largest lead of the half into the locker room. McKnight scored the final five points, knocking down a long jumper and three from the corner to make it 39-33 after 20 minutes of play.
Knutson and McKnight scored 11 points apiece in the first half, which included 5-of-5 shooting for McKnight. Lafayette was led by Tony Johnson who had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from three-point range. Lehigh shot 59 percent in the first half (17-of-29) and 20 percent from long range (1-of-5) while Lafayette finished at 40 percent (12-of-30) and 33 percent from three (5-of-15).
After Trist pulled Lafayette within four, a McKnight steal led to a Greiner breakaway dunk. Greiner continued his hot play by scoring Lehigh’s next six points behind a pair of threes. His second in less than a minute made it 47-40, but Johnson answered with a three at the other end.
Lafayette pulled within two at 49-47, but the Mountain Hawks proceeded with an 8-0 run. A monstrous Greiner alley-oop from Bailey to Greiner gave Lehigh a 55-47, forcing Lafayette to call timeout with 12:11 remaining.
A Greiner jumper made it 57-47, extending Lehigh’s run to 8-0, but Lafayette responded with five straight to cut the lead in half. Knutson answered with a drive to the basket and layup for a 59-52 lead with 9:49 remaining.
The Leopards extended their run to 14-2 as a Bryce Scott three gave the Leopards their first lead since midway through the first half. That made it 61-59 with 6:52 left in the second half.
Bailey answered just 20 seconds later with a three on the other end to give Lehigh the lead back, but Levi Giese responded just 30 seconds after that with another trey to put Lafayette up 64-62. Knutson tied it at 64, but two straight Johnson threes gave Lafayette a 70-64 lead, forcing Lehigh to call timeout. Four straight points from Trist extended the run to 10-0 with less than two minutes remaining. Lehigh wouldn’t go quietly, pulling within seven in the final minute, but it proved too little, too late.
Lehigh finished at 53 percent from the field (29-of-55) and 27 percent from three-point range (4-of-15) while Lafayette came in at 52 percent (28-of-54) and 44 percent from long distance (11-of-25). The Leopards held a 29-26 edge on the glass.
The Mountain Hawks host Navy (Wednesday) and Army (Saturday) to close out the regular season. Saturday’s Army game will be Lehigh’s sixth CBS Sports Network game of the season. Tipoff Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. and Saturday is set for 12 p.m.
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