Posted: 01/07/2013 | Last updated: January 8, 2013 at 10:13 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In front of 3,586 students and teachers on Education Day, the Lehigh women’s basketball team (8-7) used a 15-point performance from sophomore Katie O’Reilly and a strong defensive effort to earn their eighth win over Columbia (2-11) on Monday afternoon. Lehigh held Columbia to just 25 percent from the field, forced 24 turnovers and registered 11 steals as the Mountain Hawks eclipsed the .500 plateau for the first time this season.
"We’ve had to rely on our defense and I think they’ve bought in to being a real strong defensive team and for the last couple of games our offense confidence has risen," said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan. "I thought today was a real strong team effort with a lot of different players coming off the bench and making contributions."
O’Reilly started by scoring six of Lehigh’s first 11 points as the Mountain Hawks began the game with an early 13-4 lead, capitalizing on multiple Columbia turnovers. Lehigh continued to build on its lead, pushing the score to 20-7 and taking advantage of a 3-of-14 shooting performance over the first 13 minutes by the Lions as the Mountain Hawk defense stifled the struggling Columbia offense.
Columbia found multiple spurts in the first half, but the Mountain Hawks halted any kind of rally by the Lions. After a small Columbia run cut the score to 26-15, junior Hilary Weaver score her eighth point of the half to put the Mountain Hawks back up by 13 with under two minutes to play as Lehigh continued to keep a sizeable gap in the scoring.
The Lions had knocked the deficit back down to 11 at 30-19 after two free throws with 32 seconds to play in the first half, but on a fast break down the floor, O’Reilly drilled a three at the buzzer to give the Mountain Hawks a 33-19 advantage after 20 minutes of play. The Lehigh defense held Columbia to 0-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first half and kept the Lions to just 6-of-21 from the field.
Lehigh finished the half shooting 40 percent from the field and again used a strong free throw shooting performance (10-of-14) for the 14-point halftime advantage. O’Reilly led all scorers at the break with 13 points on a 4-of-5 effort from the field while shooting 4-for-4 from the charity stripe as she entered the game leading the Mountain Hawks with 33 made free throws on the season.
Out of the break, the Mountain Hawks began the second half on a 6-2 run over the first six minutes as the two teams became locked in a defensive battle. Freshman Kerry Kinek extended the run, completing a three-point play for her 10th point of the game which put her in double figures for the third consecutive contest and bumped the lead to 42-21.
The Mountain Hawks coasted throughout the remainder of the game, finishing the contest by outscoring Columbia 16-12 to close out the last 13:46 for their eighth victory of the season. Lehigh will now take a winning record into Patriot League play which begins on Saturday, January 12 in Worcester, Mass. against Holy Cross.
"We have just been focusing on getting better every game and over the past couple of weeks I think we have gotten ourselves as ready as we could be for league play to start," said Troyan. "It’ll be a little bit of a jump as our kids have to get used to league play, but we are confident in what we do and how we do it."
Lehigh finished with four players in double figures as O’Reilly dropped a game-high 15, while Kinek and junior Lindsay Hoskins each ended with 10 points apiece. Kinek added eight boards to her effort as the team’s leading rebounder while the Mountain Hawks again dominated in the paint, outscoring the Lions 28-14 inside. Lehigh also took advantage of Columbia’s 24 turnovers, converting the giveaways into 21 points.
The brown and white shot 38 percent from the field for the game and 75 percent from the line including O’Reilly’s 6-of-8 performance and Hoskins’ 6-of-7 day from the charity stripe.
Lehigh will now idle until the Patriot League opener with Holy Cross on Saturday at 1 p.m. before returning home for the Patriot League home opener on January 16 against American which is set for a 7 p.m. tip.
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