Posted: 01/05/2013 | Last updated: January 7, 2013 at 09:35 AM
RICHMOND, Va. – Down by double figures late in the first half and without star C.J. McCollum, the Lehigh men’s basketball team dropped a tight 59-55 final at VCU on Saturday. McCollum suffered an injury late in the first half, but the rest of the squad rallied to take a one-point halftime lead and stay within a possession for much of the second. Senior Holden Greiner tied a season high with 17 points while classmate Gabe Knutson added 10 as the Mountain Hawks had a chance to tie with less than a minute remaining.
“VCU ended up getting extra possessions because of the  turnovers. Ultimately, we gave up 14 offensive rebounds as well, but we were able to get some extra possessions,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “I thought our guys battled; they scrapped and they fought in a hostile environment against a very good team. There’s not a lot of letup from our guys and I’m proud of their effort because of that. There are games you can learn from and grow from. There are some situations that I would like to have done a little bit better as a team, but you can’t fault our guys for their effort, attitude and ultimately the heart they displayed tonight.”
McCollum scored four points in 15 minutes before suffering a foot injury; he did not return. His teammates picked up the slack in a big way, using a 13-2 run to gain momentum, and a one-point lead, into halftime.
Greiner’s 17 points tied a season high while he added nine rebounds. Knutson had seven boards while junior Anthony D’Orazio pulled down five to go with his six points. Sophomore Corey Schaefer scored nine points, which included 2-of-3 from three-point range.
Treveon Graham led VCU with 17 points while Troy Daniels - who knocked down 11 three-pointers in his last game - was held to only 11 points (on 3-of-9 from long range). Rob Brandenberg also added 11 points.
Lehigh took an early lead as a Greiner three and Knutson layup made it 5-2 with 18:06 on the clock. A Knutson jumper extended the advantage to 7-4 just over a minute later as the senior duo continued to score the Mountain Hawks’ first nine points.
Tied at nine, VCU strung together a 14-4 run to open a 23-13 advantage with 7:36 to go in the first half. A three from Brandenberg broke the 9-9 tie and gave the Rams their first lead of the game. Daniels hit his second trey of the first half in that stretch to make it 21-13 before a Melvin Johnson jumper gave VCU its first double-digit lead of the game.
Down 27-17 and without McCollum, Lehigh staged an impressive 13-2 run to close out the first half. Schaefer hit a three from the corner off a nice dish from Greiner to make it 27-21. Greiner then knocked down a trey of his own to pull Lehigh within three. After a VCU layup, the Mountain Hawks closed the first with six straight points - a Justin Goldsborough layup off a nifty McKnight pass, a D’Orazio offensive rebound and putback, and a McKnight driving layup with 40 seconds to go to make it 30-29 Lehigh after 20 minutes of play.
Greiner led the Mountain Hawks with eight first-half points while Knutson had five and McCollum and D’Orazio added four apiece. In total, eight different players scored in the first 20 minutes. Graham and Daniels led VCU with eight points apiece. Lehigh shot 39 percent from the field (10-of-26) including 30 percent from three-point range (3-of-10) while the Rams were 39 percent (12-of-31) and 20 percent from long distance (2-of-15).
Schaefer scored Lehigh’s first four second half points via a free throw and three-pointer which made it 34-31 with 17:10 on the clock. VCU answered with seven of the next eight points as a Graham trey gave the Rams the lead back at 38-35 with 14:06 remaining in the second half.
VCU opened a six-point, 42-36 lead following another Graham jumper with 10:20 to play, but sophomore Stefan Cvrkalj found Greiner for an easy layup after breaking the press to pull within 42-38.
A McKnight three and Knutson jumper erased a five-point deficit and pulled Lehigh even at 46 with 6:16 to play. However, VCU answered and wouldn’t trail the rest of the way. The Rams went up four on multiple occasions, but the Mountain Hawks wouldn’t go away. A Knutson offensive rebound and putback pulled Lehigh within 52-51 with 2:34 on the clock.
Lehigh had the ball with 31 seconds remaining down only two, but turned it over and the Rams hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the victory in front of the 27th consecutive sellout at the Siegel Center.
Lehigh finished at 38 percent from the field (18-of-47), including 33 percent from three-point range (6-of-18). VCU shot 36 percent (22-of-61) and 19 percent from long distance (5-of-27). The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, 40-33.
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