BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh, which trailed by as many as 19 points halfway through the second half, went on a 21-5 run to cut the deficit to three with 33 seconds left but couldn’t complete the comeback as the Mountain Hawks (13-12, 6-5 PL) fell short 62-56 vs. Bucknell (5-12, 3-8 PL) Wednesday. Lehigh had three players in double figures, led by 12 points from junior Kelly Peterson while senior Emily Gratch and freshman Sarah Williams added 11 points each.
“We dug ourselves in a big hole and we spent a lot of energy getting back into the game and we just have to do a better job of managing the game and playing a lot harder and more consistent from the get-go,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “We struggled to execute in our half-court offense and our defense didn’t get many stops in the first half.”
Lehigh’s defense in the second half however stepped up, holding Bucknell without a field goal for the final 6:11 of the game which sparked the Mountain Hawks on the offensive end. After Lehigh cut the deficit to six with 3:37 to play, both teams went scoreless until the 55 second mark as freshman Katie O’Reilly’s layup brought Lehigh to within four.
After Bucknell went 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, Gratch was fouled on the other end and made both of her free throws to cut the deficit to three, 59-56 with 33 seconds left to play. After the Bison again went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, the Mountain Hawks were unable to take advantage as Williams missed a jumper with 11 seconds left that would have cut the deficit to two.
Lehigh now sits in sole possession of fourth place in the league, a game behind Army and Navy which is tied for second.
Lehigh finished the game shooting 36 percent (19-of-53) from the field including 39 percent (7-of-18) from behind the arc. Bucknell shot 45 percent (22-of-49) from the field and 42 percent (5-of-12) from three. Both teams were 65 percent from the free-throw line as Lehigh was 11-of-17 and Bucknell was 13-of-20.
Lehigh was outrebounded 44-27 including 15-10 on the offensive glass. The Mountain Hawks forced 15 second-half turnovers and 26 for the game while Lehigh committed 20 turnovers, just seven in the second half.
Both teams started the game shooting the ball well as Lehigh trailed 9-8 with 15:28 left. The Mountain Hawks were 4-of-9 while Bucknell was 3-of-5 in the early going as four different Mountain Hawks were in the scoring column already.
The teams exchanged baskets over the next four minutes as Lehigh trailed 15-13 with 11:34 left. Six different Lehigh players were in the scoring column, led by a three pointer from junior Sarah Pearce.
Bucknell then went on a 9-0 run as Lehigh trailed 23-13 with 8:38 to go in in the half. Gratch halted the run with a made free throw for Lehigh’s first points in almost four minutes and freshman Sarah Williams then nailed a three from the corner to cut the deficit to 23-17 with 7:18 to go for Lehigh’s first made field goal in five minutes.
The Bison continued to hold onto its lead as Lehigh trailed 32-22 with 3:48 left in the half. Seven different Mountain Hawks tallied points led by five from Sarah Williams and junior Kelly Peterson.
Lehigh trailed 37-25 at halftime. The Mountain Hawks shot 35 percent (9-of-26) including 44 percent (4-of-9) from three. Bucknell shot 47 percent (13-of-28) and 57 percent (4-of-7) from behind the arc. Lehigh was outrebounded 22-12. Lehigh was 3-of-5 from the free throw line while Bucknell was 7-of-8.
Lehigh turned the ball over 13 times while forcing 11 Bucknell turnovers. The difference in the opening half was Bucknell’s 15-2 edge on points off turnovers.
Eight different Mountain Hawks scored at least two points
Lehigh, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the opening half, is no stranger to comebacks as the Mountain Hawks overcame a 16-point deficit at Navy, an 18-point deficit at Army and a 13-point deficit late in the second half at Holy Cross. In the Mountain Hawks’ most recent game at Colgate, they trailed by as many 16 before cutting the deficit to three with two minutes to go in the game.
Out of the break, Bucknell continued to build its lead using an 11-4 run as Lehigh trailed 48-29 with 14:04 to go in the game. But then Sarah Williams nailed back-to-back three pointers for a personal 6-0 run to cut the deficit 13 with 13:22 left.
A Gratch layup cut the deficit to 11, 56-45 with 6:32 left. Gratch continued to spark Lehigh as she had steals on four straight possessions as Lehigh trailed 58-50 with 3:40 to go. Gratch then added a layup to cut the deficit to six. Peterson had a chance to cut in half but her three rimmed in and out with 1:10 to go.
After Bucknell missed the front end of a one-and-one, O’Reilly then converted a layup as Lehigh trailed 58-54 with 54.8 seconds left.
The Bison then made 1-of-2 from the free-throw line for their first point since the 6:11 mark. On the ensuing possession, Gratch was fouled and hit both free throws cut the deficit to 59-56 with 32.4 seconds left.
Lehigh sent Bucknell back to the free-throw line as the Bison again went 1-of-2 from the charity strip.
Trailing by four with 20 seconds left, Sarah Williams missed a mid-range jumper and Lehigh was forced to foul again as the Mountain Hawks fell short.
Sarah Williams’ 11 points came on 4-of-9 shooting including 3-of-4 from behind the arc, falling just three points short of her career high. Gratch added four rebounds and four steals to along with her 11 points while Alexa Williams finished with seven points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Bucknell was led by Shelby Romine’s 23 points while Lindsay Horbatuck added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Wednesday’s game marked the 70th meeting between Lehigh and Bucknell as the Mountain Hawks hold the 39-31 all-time edge.
Lehigh had entered the game winners of 10 straight over Bucknell with the Mountain Hawks’ last loss to Bucknell coming on February 20, 2007 at Stabler Arena.
Lehigh and Bucknell split its season series as the Mountain Hawks on the first meeting 55-38.
The Mountain Hawks, which have dropped three straight, will look to turn thing around Saturday when Lehigh travels to face rival Lafayette at noon. Lehigh defeated Lafayette 68-55 in the first meeting on January 21.