BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh women’s basketball team (7-6) used an 11-0 second-half run to defeat the University of Rhode Island (1-12) 67-56 Thursday. The win was Lehigh’s fifth straight and sixth in seven games. Four Mountain Hawks scored in double figures led by 13 points from senior Alexa Williams while junior Kelly Peterson added 12, senior Emily Gratch had a double-double of 11 points-11 rebounds and junior Sarah Pearce scored all of her 11 points in the second half.
“I think it showed having 18 days off as we were a little rusty but our team stayed confident and stayed within the system,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “We made good adjustments and came out in the second half much more aggressively on the defensive end. And offensively we did a better job of finishing around the basket. It was a good win to get.”
Lehigh finished the game shooting 36 percent from the field including 6-for-23 from behind the arc while URI shot 45 percent and 4-for-8 from three. Lehigh did a great job on defense as the Mountain Hawks forced 24 turnovers, 13 of which came from steals. Lehigh finished with a season-low 13 turnovers while 18 of Lehigh's 20 baskets were assisted, led by six from sophomore Hilary Weaver.
Lehigh and URI both had 37 rebounds, but the Mountain Hawks held the edge on the offensive glass 11-5. Lehigh also had a 15-point edge at the free-throw line as the Mountain Hawks were 21-for-35 to URI's 6-for-10.
Lehigh got out to a 5-4 lead with 15:35 to go as freshman Katie O'Reilly had three points and Gratch added a basket in the early going. URI responded with a 4-0 run to take an 8-5 lead two minutes later. But Peterson ended that run with a three from the corner on Lehigh’s next possession to even the game.
With Lehigh leading 10-8, URI then went on a 12-0 run to take a 20-10 lead with 10 minutes left in the second half as the Rams took advantage of three straight Lehigh turnovers.
Lehigh then quickly cut the deficit in half as Weaver ended URI’s run with a pair of made free throws and Lehigh then forced a turnover which turned into an old-fashion three-point play for Williams as the Mountain Hawks trailed 20-15 with 9:17 to go.
The Mountain Hawks continued to cut into the lead as they trailed 22-20 with 7:23 left. URI then used an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 30-20 with 5:22.
Lehigh then stepped up its defensive effort to hold URI to just three points for the remainder of the half which came on a three-pointer at the buzzer as the Mountain Hawks trailed 33-24 at the break.
Lehigh shot 25 percent in the opening half including 1-for-11 from behind the arc while URI shot 61 percent from the field including 4-for-5 from three. The Mountain Hawks had six players in the scoring column led by seven from Peterson. Gratch added four points and five rebounds.
The Mountain Hawks were outrebounded 20-14 but Lehigh held the edge on the offensive glass 6-1. Lehigh was unable to take advantage of 15 URI turnovers while the Mountain Hawks also struggled to convert at the free-throw line going 9-for-15.
The teams exchanged baskets out of halftime until Lehigh went on a 6-0, with five of those points coming from Peterson to cut URI’s deficit to 37-35 with 14:37 left.
URI was clinging to 46-39 lead with 11:42 to go and then Lehigh went on an 8-0 run with all eight points coming from Pearce. She hit a three and then added a three-point play on consecutive possessions to cut the deficit to 46-45 with 10:25 left. After Gratch missed a pair of free throws, O’Reilly grabbed the offensive rebound and found Pearce for an open jumper as Lehigh led 47-46 with 9:45 to go. It was Lehigh’s first lead since 10-8 with 13:12 left in the first half.
The Rams retook the lead 48-47 on a pair of free throws but Lehigh took it right back thanks to a senior Aly Byorick three as the Mountain Hawks led 50-48 with 8:34 left.
Pearce then hit a three to cap off a Lehigh 10-4 run to extend Lehigh’s lead to 60-52 with 4:11 to go.
Three minutes later, URI hit a basket to cut the deficit to 62-56 with a minute left and then forced a Lehigh turnover. The Rams got to the free-throw line but were unable to take advantage. On the other end, Byorick hit a pair of free throws to put the game away to extend Lehigh’s lead to 64-56 with 48 seconds left as the Mountain Hawks won 67-56.
O’Reilly finished with nine points while Byorick finished with five points and six rebounds.
The win was Lehigh’s first all-time win over Rhode Island while the victory also gives Lehigh a 5-0 record in December this season and a 19-0 mark in the month with its last loss dating back to December 2nd, 2009 at Princeton.
The Rams were led by Sherrie Session’s double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Lehigh will take the court again Friday night against Richmond at 7:30 in the final game of the Christmas City Classic. In the first game Thursday night, Richmond defeated James Madison 74-66. James Madison will take on Rhode Island Friday at 5 p.m. All games can be seen live on Lehighsports.com.