Posted: January 10, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks opened up the 2008-09 Patriot League slate with a resounding 77-69 win over American at Stabler Arena Saturday night. Lehigh carried over the momentum it built with a school-record (since Patriot League play began) 11 non-league wins and rolled to its first league win of the season.
With the win, the Brown and White moves to 12-4 on the season and 1-0 in the Patriot League, while American drops to 10-6 with an 0-1 record in league play. Lehigh is now 12-2 in Patriot League openers under head coach Sue Troyan.
The Mountain Hawks quickly turned an 11-point halftime lead into a dominating 22-point buffer in the first 6:30 of the second half. Lehigh went on a 14-3 run to open the period, putting the game away for good with a 48-26 lead.
“We really got our transition game going tonight and that helped us a lot,” Troyan said. “Erica (Prosser) and Claire (Sullivan) did a great job of distributing the ball and keeping us going.”
Four Mountain Hawks scored in double figures on Saturday, with Prosser leading the way with 18 points and a career-high tying eight assists. Courtney Dentler threw in 12 points, putting her in double figures for the third out of the last four games. And Courtney Molinaro set a new Lehigh career best with 12 points and added five rebounds. Alex Ross chipped in with 11 points in her first action since the Christmas City Classic on Dec. 29.
“We talked a lot this year about the strength of this team being its depth,” Troyan said. “Courtney (Molinaro) was the fifth post in our rotation tonight and she just had a tremendous game. Having that depth is great for this team.”
American would claw back in to 13 points down, 76-63 with one minute remaining and just eight points down when time expired, but the Eagles would never seriously threaten the Mountain Hawks in the second half. Michelle Kirk paced American with 21 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
American shot 35.1 percent from the field, but just 22.7 percent from downtown (5-for-22), which limited the team’s opportunity to mount a comeback.
“We were trying hard to keep them off balance by switching between man-to-man and zone,” Troyan said. “We had to defend the 3-point shot tonight because they’re a good shooting team. I thought we really executed on both ends tonight.”
Courtney Dentler buried a 3-pointer with 14:29 left in the first half to give Lehigh a 7-4 lead, which they would not relinquish for the rest of the game. The Mountain Hawks hit four triples in the first half, while the Eagles missed all four of their attempts from downtown.
Lehigh also dominated the rebounding battle in the first half, grabbing 24 boards in the opening period to just 16 for American. Claire Sullivan and Dentler each pulled down four in the first, while nine of the 10 Mountain Hawks to see playing time in the half grabbed at least one rebound.
“We focused a lot this week on the importance of not being too dependent on the three,” Troyan said. “We wanted to play some inside and outside and we’ve been better at that in the last couple games.”
When Alex Ross sank her first 3-pointer in the first half, the junior guard moved into sole possession of second place in Lehigh history for makes from downtown with the 159th of her career. The trey put Lehigh up 10-5 with 13:27 left in the first; the closest American would come for the rest of the game.
The Mountain Hawks pulled away with a 10-4 run to close out the first half. Ross and Erica Prosser each hit threes in the run and Lehigh went into the locker room with a 34-23 lead.
Lehigh returns to action on Wednesday, when the Mountain Hawks head to Annapolis, Md. to take on the Navy Midshipmen. Fans that cannot make it out to Annapolis on Wednesday can listen to the game live on 91.3 WLVR (FM) and around the world on Lehighsports.com, with streaming provided by Yahoo! Sports. Jeff Tourial will be calling the action at 6:45 p.m.
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