Posted: 01/19/2013 | Last updated: January 20, 2013 at 06:31 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team jumped out to a 9-0 lead and wouldn’t look back, extending the lead to 17 before holding off Colgate, 60-45 on Saturday evening in Stabler Arena. Three Mountain Hawks (13-4, 3-0 Patriot League) finished with double-digit points, led by 14 points and seven rebounds from junior Mackey McKnight. Senior Holden Greiner posted his fourth-career double-double in the win, scoring 12 points and adding 12 rebounds as Lehigh won its fourth straight game to set up a first-place showdown at Bucknell Wednesday.
The effort came in front of a season-high crowd of 2,709 fans in Stabler Arena.
“You had a team that was playing pretty solid defense, even in the second half, but we had offensive droughts that hurt us,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Our guys persevered; they stuck through and didn’t fall back and give up easy opportunities on offense for Colgate. We’re a team that will make shots. We didn’t make a ton of shots tonight, but at the end of the day, we shot 18 percent in the second half but were still able to hold and extend the lead. That tells you the major and most important factor this evening, which was defense.”
Junior Anthony D’Orazio posted 12 points and a career-high eight rebounds while senior Gabe Knutson added seven points and junior B.J. Bailey had six. Greiner’s 12 boards were one shy of a career high. Freshman Justin Goldsborough added five points off the bench behind a perfect 2-of-2 shooting.
Lehigh’s defense continued to shine as it allowed 50 or fewer points for the third time in its last four games. The Mountain Hawks held Colgate’s leading scorer Murphy Burnatowski, who was averaging 17.9 points coming in, to just two on 1-of-13 shooting. The Raiders were led offensively by Brandon James who scored 12 points. He was the only Colgate player in double figures.
“It’s neat to watch these guys; they’re flying around,” said Reed. “Mackey is a high energy player; that high energy ultimately translated into rebounds, steals and deflections. Anthony D’Orazio is diving towards our bench. I almost ran over and picked him up myself, I was so proud of his effort and his energy. B.J. Bailey has those capacities as well.
“Holden Greiner has continued to grow in that role with his energy and his confidence,” Reed continued. “Gabe Knutson is giving up his body taking charges. Guys are coming off the bench making those types of contributions on defense. It’s really exciting to see that type of thing and it allows our team to continue to take that next step.”
Lehigh jumped out to an early 9-0 lead before Colgate scored its first points with 15:41 left in the first half. Knutson started it with a three-point play before a Greiner fastbreak layup made it 5-0, forcing Colgate coach Matt Langel to call timeout just a minute in.
Greiner added two more layups for the 9-0 advantage. Lehigh opened its first double digit lead following a D’Orazio three with 15:16 on the clock. Colgate pulled within five (12-7), but the Mountain Hawks responded with a 10-2 run to make it 22-9 following a Greiner three-pointer as he posted all nine of his first-half points in the first 8:32.
The Raiders pulled within 27-16, but the Mountain Hawks used a 6-0 run to open their largest lead of the first half. The stretch began with an emphatic dunk from Goldsborough off a nice feed from McKnight. D’Orazio finished the run with a jumper and fastbreak layup in a 23-second span to make it 33-16 with 5:59 left in the first half.
Ahead 39-22 following a Bailey trey, Colgate scored the final four first-half points to pull within 13 (39-26) at the half.
D’Orazio led the way with 10 first-half points, along with five rebounds, while Greiner added nine points, and McKnight six. The Mountain Hawks shot 49 percent from the field (16-of-33) and 55 percent from three-point range (6-of-11) while Colgate shot 36 percent (10-of-28) and 18 percent form long distance (2-of-11). Lehigh held the edge in rebounding, 20-17. Pat Moore scored five first-half points to lead Colgate.
Lehigh opened a 16-point lead following a layup and Goldsborough free throw just over a minute into the second half. The Raiders continued to hang around, pulling within 13 or 14 on multiple occasions, but the Mountain Hawks continued to extend their lead to 16.
Up 54-38 following a pair of Stefan Cvrkalj free throws with 7:26 remaining, Colgate staged a mini 6-0 run to pull within 10 (54-44) following a Moore layup with 3:35 to go. However, Lehigh’s defense continued to stand tall, allowing only one point over the final three minutes while extending its lead back to 15 at the final whistle.
Lehigh finished 36 percent from the field (20-of-55) and 35 percent from three-point range (6-of-17). Colgate shot 31 percent (18-of-59) and 9 percent from long distance (2-of-22). The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, 41-40.
The Mountain Hawks will now head to Bucknell on Wednesday for a first-place showdown against the Bison, also 3-0 in league play. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
“It should be a good game. Bucknell is a very good team,” said Reed. “We’ll have to keep that collective unity and intensity at a high level. I think our players are confident in their ability to perform; they should be. We continue to build confidence as we forge forward and create our identity with the pieces that we have. I’m glad we’ve been able do so and I’m glad that confidence has ultimately risen.”
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