BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team used a second-half surge to extend a two-point halftime lead into a double-digit victory as the Mountain Hawks (13-5, 1-1 PL) topped American (10-7, 1-1), 71-60 on Wednesday, for their first Patriot League win of the season. Junior C.J. McCollum led the way with 26 points to jump into ninth in league history in career scoring. Seniors John Adams and Jordan Hamilton also impressed with 11 and nine points, respectively.
“Mackey McKnight did a very good job of having the ball in his hands, attacking and finding the open man,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “He didn’t pass to numbers; he just passed to colors. I thought those guys played with confidence because he fed confidence into them. Justin Maneri also set some great screens. Oftentimes we overlook the little aspects of the game of basketball, which can add up in a hurry.”
McCollum’s 26 points gives him 1,679 for his career, moving him from 11th to ninth in Patriot League history, this with 12 regular season games remaining in his junior season. He also added four rebounds and a season-high tying five steals. Adams’ 11 points included 3-of-5 from three-point range while Hamilton’s nine came on a trio of threes, all in a span of 2:28 in the second half to help Lehigh widen its lead.
Sophomore Mackey McKnight tied a career-high eight assists, five coming in the second half. Junior Gabe Knutson also added nine points and seven rebounds while Holden Greiner pulled down a game-high nine boards.
Both sides struggled from the floor in the early going as American took the lead and wouldn’t give it up until 5:31 remaining in the half after a pair of McCollum free throws made it 22-21.
The Eagles scored four straight points to make it 25-22, but the Mountain Hawks answered with eight of the final 11 first-half points, capped off by two Knutson free throws and a Knutson layup in the final 29 seconds. That made it 30-28 Lehigh after 20 minutes of play.
Hamilton and Adams stole the show early in the second, combining for five three-pointers in the first 12 minutes. Adams’ second trey of the half gave the Mountain Hawks their first double-digit lead of the game, making it 56-46 with 8:01 on the clock.
Lehigh continued to rain threes as sophomore Anthony D’Orazio knocked down a trey for a 59-46 advantage with 5:57 remaining. The Mountain Hawks finished the second half with seven three-pointers.
The Mountain Hawks cruised from that point forward, opening as much as a 16-point (69-53) lead with 1:19 remaining before holding onto the 71-60 final, their 11th double-digit victory of the season.
Lehigh shot 38 percent from the field (23-of-60) and 48 percent from three-point range (10-of-21) while American finished at 41 percent (24-of-59) and 37 percent from long distance (10-of-27). The Mountain Hawks held a 38-37 edge on the glass.
Lehigh hits the road Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip at Colgate. The Mountain Hawks will return to Stabler Arena next Wednesday (Jan. 18) to host Bucknell at 7 p.m. in a matchup of preseason number one against two. 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.
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