Posted: November 25, 2008
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Mountain Hawks closed out their four-game road trip with a 77-75 at Sacred Heart Tuesday. Lehigh watched a 12-point halftime lead slowly erode in the second half, but held on for its third-straight victory.
The 3-1 mark on the trip was the best four-game road stretch for the Mountain Hawks since the 1986-87 season. Lehigh improves to 4-1 on the season for the first time since 2004-05, while the Pioneers fall to 0-4.
“It got a little interesting at the end tonight,” Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan said. “It was a little more interesting than I, as a coach, would like to see. But we pulled it out in the end and that’s what matters.”
The Mountain Hawks had extended the lead to nine points with just less than two minutes left in the game off a big three-pointer from Erica Prosser in the corner. The game appeared to be sealed, but a string of missed free throws gave the Pioneers a chance and Alisa Apo drilled a key three-pointer to cut the lead to just two points with 48.5 remaining.
But Lehigh was able to settle its nerves and hit the key shots down the stretch to hold the Pioneers at bay and walk away from Fairfield with the victory.
“Tricia’s layup was a big play for us because it gave us some breathing room,” Troyan said. “She really stepped up.”
Prosser led the Mountain Hawks in scoring with a career-high 21 points in the win. The back-to-back Patriot League Player of the Week also added four steals and two assists from the point guard spot. Tricia Smith led the Brown and White with 10 rebounds and fell just one point shy of a double-double with nine on the night.
Apo led all scorers with 31 points in the losing effort. She and Callan Taylor, who scored 21 points and added 10 rebounds, accounted for 52 of the Pioneers’ 75 points on the night.
The Mountain Hawks defense was able to shut down the primary scoring threat for the Pioneers, Kaitlin Sowinski. Sowinski came into the game averaging 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, but the senior center fouled out with 7:49 left in the game with only five points Tuesday night.
“Haly (Crites) and Melissa (Rich) both did a very nice job defending Sowinski in the post,” Troyan said. “That was huge for us to contain her tonight.”
The Brown and White was unable to jump out to the giant first-half lead it had become accustomed to on the last two games of the road trip – after putting up an average of 56 points in the first half of the last two games against Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis (Pa.) – but Lehigh still managed to take a 35-23 advantage into the break.
The first half was all about balance for the Mountain Hawks, with nine players registering at least a point and Melissa Rich leading the way with six points. The Pioneers, on the other hand, received most of their offensive output from two players, Callan Taylor and Alisa Apo, who scored 10 and nine points, respectively in the period.
The Mountain Hawks struggled through the first few minutes of play, falling behind 16-13 to the Pioneers nearing the midway point in the half. Claire Sullivan got things going offensively with her first made three-point field goal since Feb. 9 against American. Then Prosser followed the captain in hitting from downtown to give Lehigh the lead.
That’s when the shots started falling from everywhere for Lehigh, with Courtney Dentler dropping in four points and Alex Ross nailing long big three as the Mountain Hawks went on a 16-0 run to grab control of the game. The Pioneers, meanwhile, struggled on the offensive end, as they were held scoreless for more than 7:30 until Alisa Apo’s free throw broke the drought and ended the Lehigh run.
Both teams racked up the fouls and the free throws in the second half, combining for 44 attempts in the final 20 minutes. Lehigh earned a season-high 29 attempts from the charity stripe on Tuesday, with 21 of those coming in the second half.
It was the Mountain Hawks’ inability to take advantage of all these attempts – 65.5 percent in the game – that kept Sacred Heart in the game. But fortunately for Lehigh, the Pioneers did not fare much better from the line, making just 67.9 percent of their attempts.
Lehigh returns to action on Sunday afternoon when the Mountain Hawks finally come home to Stabler Arena to host the Princeton Tigers at 2 p.m.
Lehigh - Sacred Heart postgame extra, November 25, 2008