Posted: 01/03/2012 | Last updated: January 4, 2012 at 07:52 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team wrapped up its best nonleague season in school history with a resounding 82-55 win over University of Maryland Eastern Shore on Tuesday evening in Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks (12-4) used a 17-0 first-half run to break a 10-10 tie and roll to the victory. A balanced team effort saw 12 different Lehigh players score, led by a game-high 18 points from junior C.J. McCollum.
“We controlled the game right from the onset,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “What a fantastic game by Mackey McKnight. He controlled the game offensively and defensively. We have a really nice combination of C.J. and Mackey, so when a team pressures us, we have two very competent ball handlers. And that came into play tonight as UMES put a lot of pressure on us.”
The 82 points marked the fifth game this season the Mountain Hawks have eclipsed 80. They upped their already Patriot League leading scoring average to 78.8. Lehigh has now won four games by 25 or more points and wraps up nonleague play at 12-4, the school’s best-ever record through 16 games in the program’s 100+ year history.
The win came over a UMES team that defeated Patriot League squads American and Navy earlier this season. Lehigh finishes nonleague play winners of 12 of its last 14 games. Ten of the 12 victories have been by double figures, while all four of its losses have come by single digits.
McCollum’s 18 points gives him 1,626 for his career, moving into 13th on the Patriot League all-time scoring list. He also grabbed seven rebounds to eclipse 500 career boards, now at 504. Sophomore Mackey McKnight finished with 12 points and six assists to tie a season high. Three others finished with seven or more points, including eight from junior Holden Greiner and seven from freshman Corey Schaefer, who didn’t turn the ball over in 18 minutes of action and now has only eight turnovers in 262 minutes played this season.
Lehigh jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the early going following a McKnight three-pointer, the Mountain Hawks’ third trey in the game’s first 3:40. UMES used four straight points to tie the score at 10 following an Ishaq Pitt layup with 15:24 remaining in the first, but Lehigh responded in a big way.
The Mountain Hawks went on to post a 17-0 run over the next 7:04, which included three more three-pointers. The run concluded with a Knutson fastbreak layup off a nifty feed from McKnight, then an Anthony D’Orazio three-pointer with 8:40 on the clock.
Pitt broke the run with 8:01 remaining, but the Mountain Hawks continued to extend their streak through the end of the half. McCollum fed senior Justin Maneri for a layup with 1:54 remaining before converting a layup and free throw to help Lehigh end the half with 10 straight points. The Mountain Hawks led 45-16 at the half, ending the first 20 minutes on a 35-6 run over the final 15:24.
The roll continued in the second as Lehigh opened a 36-point, 54-18, advantage following a Greiner dunk with 17:01 to play, Lehigh’s largest lead of the game. UMES slowly chipped away, pulling as close as 66-38 with 9:23 to go, but Schaefer hit two straight fallaway jumpers to help the Mountain Hawks go up, 70-40 with 8:02 remaining.
The lead hovered around 30 the rest of the way before UMES used four straight points over the final 1:32 to pull within 82-55 at the final horn.
The Mountain Hawks shot 48 percent from the field (26-of-54), including 44 percent from three-point range (10-of-23). That included a sizzling 56 percent from long range in the first half (9-of-16). UMES finished at 40 percent (23-of-58) and eight percent from three (1-of-13). Lehigh won the battle of the boards, 37-31.
Lehigh kicks off Patriot League play on Saturday when it travels to Holy Cross for a 3:30 p.m. tip against the Crusaders. Following that game, the Mountain Hawks return to Stabler Arena to host American on Wednesday (Jan. 11) at 7 p.m. Tickets for all home games are now on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.