BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team used a 15-0 second-half run to take a 22-point lead before holding off a valiant Colgate rally, to top the Raiders, 70-57 on Wednesday in Stabler Arena. With the win, the second-seeded Mountain Hawks (24-7) advance to the Patriot League Semifinals for the third straight season and will host #3 American on Saturday at 2 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
To purchase tickets for Saturday’s game, please click here. Tickets may be purchased on Lehighsports.com, over the phone (610-758-4263) or in-person at Stabler Arena, Monday-through-Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $6 for students/children/seniors.
Four Lehigh players finished with double-figure points, led by a season-high 16 from sophomore Mackey McKnight. Junior C.J. McCollum added 15, senior Jordan Hamilton 13 and sophomore B.J. Bailey 10.
Lehigh’s defense stood tall, holding Colgate to 35 percent shooting in the second half and 25 percent from three-point range to turn a seven-point halftime lead into a 22-point advantage. The Mountain Hawks also held their opponent in the 50s (or fewer) for the fourth time in the last five games. This marks Lehigh's sixth-straight win to tie a season high.
“I thought when our defensive energy was high, it created opportunities for us to score in transition,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “It picked up everybody’s spirits as well. You could feel and gain confidence of the unity in our defense, which was a major factor in this game.”
McCollum’s 15 points gives him 1,974 for his career, passing all-time great Mike Polaha for second in Lehigh history. McCollum also set a new Patriot League Tournament record with a career-high seven steals, more than half of Lehigh’s 13. The Mountain Hawks forced 22 Colgate turnovers while only turning the ball over nine times themselves.
Sterling Melville led the way for Colgate, scoring a game-high 21 points as the only Raider in double figures. Colgate shot only 31 percent from three-point range (5-of-16) after shooting 58 percent (11-of-19) in the last regular season matchup.
“In our previous two games, we had individuals step up from Colgate who pushed the three point line - Brandon James then Pat Moore,” said Reed. “It was a point of emphasis and a point of focus. For the most part, we were there to challenge the three-point shooters.”
Lehigh jumped out to the early lead, taking a 6-2 advantage after junior Gabe Knutson finished a fastbreak layup off a nice feed from McCollum. Colgate responded with five straight as a Moore trey made it 7-6 Raiders with 14:25 left in the first half. But the Mountain Hawks came back with seven straight points of their own - a jumper from McCollum, layup from senior Justin Maneri and three-pointer from junior Holden Greiner - to make it 13-7 with 12:37 on the clock.
A Bailey three-pointer put the Mountain Hawks up 18-11 less than two minutes later, their largest lead of the first half, but Lehigh went into a scoreless drought snapped by a pair of Greiner free throws to make it 20-14 with 6:53 on the clock.
Colgate responded with two straight baskets to pull within 20-18 before pulling as close as 25-24. However, Lehigh reeled off eight of the final 10 first-half points to go into the locker room with a 33-26 lead. A Hamilton trey rounded out the scoring, giving him 11 of his 13 points in the first stanza.
Knutson set the tone with a quick two just 11 seconds into the second half to make it 35-26, but the Raiders scored seven of the next 12 to pull within 40-33 after a Yaw Gyawu jumper with 15:12 remaining.
Lehigh turned it up with a 15-0 run over the next 5:52, which began with two straight three-pointers, from McCollum and Bailey, and continuing with five straight points from McKnight. The run was capped off with a Bailey jumper to make it 55-33 with 9:20 remaining.
Colgate wouldn’t give up, coming right back with a 15-3 run to pull within 58-48 with 4:37 on the clock, which included seven straight points from Melville. Greiner ended Lehigh’s 6:32 field goal drought, finishing a runner in the lane to make it 62-50 with 2:48 remaining.
McCollum erased any doubt with his record-breaking seventh-steal of the game, making an athletic steal at center court and going all the way for an emphatic dunk to make it 66-53 with 1:32 to go. McKnight added four straight free throws to make it 70-53 before Colgate answered with four straight in the final minute for the 70-57 final.
Lehigh finished at 38 percent from the field (24-of-63) and 32 percent from three-point range (8-of-25). After a strong first half, Colgate shot 41 percent (19-of-46) and 31 percent from long distance (5-of-16). The Raiders won the battle of the boards, 39-32.
The Mountain Hawks will host #3 American at 2 p.m. Saturday with the winner advancing to the Patriot League Championship Game next Wednesday vs. either #1 Bucknell or #5 Lafayette. Tickets may be purchased on Lehighsports.com, over the phone (610-758-4263) or in-person at Stabler Arena, Monday-through-Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $6 for students/children/seniors.