BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The top-seeded Mountain Hawks tied a school record for wins in a season by notching number 24 against the Colgate Raiders in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament Saturday in Stabler Arena. Lehigh improved to 24-6 on the season with the 78-54 win, the best start for a Lehigh team since the 1985-86 season when Lehigh went 24-4 on the year. With the win, the Brown and White will advance to the semi-finals for the third consecutive year.
Colgate’s season comes to a close with a 5-25 record. The Raiders were 1-13 in league play during the regular season. Lehigh will face Army in the second round after the Black Knights knocked off Holy Cross' season in the second game of the day.
Erica Prosser and Alex Ross led the Mountain Hawks with 19 and 15 points, respectively. Senior center Melissa Rich gave Lehigh 11 points and three rebounds off the bench, as the Mountain Hawks used their frontcourt depth throughout the game.
“You never really know how freshmen are going to react, but I expect that from the seniors,” Troyan said of Rich’s performance off the bench. “We’re fortunate with our post rotation that anybody can step up and have a big game on any day.”
Tayler Wejnert led all scorers with 23 points in the loss. Wejnert sank 11 of 12 free throws and chipped in with four rebounds. Georgia Gier led all rebounders with 14 boards to go along with nine points.
Lehigh went up by 11 points with 9:34 left in the first on an Emily Gratch layup. The Mountain hawks were able to maintain that double-digit lead for the rest of the game. The lead grew to 13 heading into the locker room, and as many as 25 in the second half, as the Brown and White used its depth and experience to put the game away.
“We wanted to come out and show what we could do,” Rich said. “We don’t want to take anyone lightly because we know what can happen in this tournament. We knew we had to play our best game to get it done.”
Lehigh went into the locker room with a 37-24 advantage. Wejnert led all scorers with 14 points in the first half, scoring more than half the Raiders’ points in the period. Colgate’s offensive output was limited to just four players on the scoreboard, Wejnert, Georgia Gier (six points) Kelly Korkowski (two points) and a Sami Kozlowski (two points)
The Mountain Hawks used a more balanced approach in the first, with eight players scoring at least one point and five players scoring at least four. Prosser and Ross each scored eight in the half to pace the Brown and White offense.
Lehigh’s defense shut the Raiders down for much of the first half, limiting Colgate to just eight field goals and forcing 14 turnovers. Six different players recorded a steal for the Mountain Hawks, and Lehigh dominated the rebounding battle, 22-12.
The Mountain Hawks built on the lead throughout the second half as Prosser and Ross got hot from the field. Ross buried a 3-pointer with 15:17 remaining to put Lehigh up 47-27. Just six minutes later, Prosser used her quickness to execute a double-crossover move in the paint to score an easy layup, putting Lehigh up 60-35.
“Early on I thought we were showing some nerves and looking anxious out there,” Troyan said. “I thought in the second half they really let the game come to them.”
In the second game, Army eliminated Holy Cross to advance to the semi-finals. The Black Knights got 24 points from Nalini Hawkins and held Holy Cross to just 23.6 percent shooting from the field. Army moves to 19-11, while Holy Cross' season ends at 13-17.
The Mountain Hawks earned a split against Army in the regular season, with both teams winning at home.
In the third game, Lafayette scored the early upset of the tournament by knocking off second-seeded American, 58-56. LaKeisha Wright sank a game-winning layup with 19 seconds left to seal the win for the Leopards.
Lafayette will take on Navy in the semifinals on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Navy upset Bucknell in the final game of the day at Stabler, 53-51 to earn the trip to the next round.
Buzzer beaters: The Lehigh - Army game will tip off from Stabler Arena at 1 p.m. Sunday…The Mountain Hawks have now won 15 games this season at Stabler Arena, the most in school history…14 Lehigh players saw action and 12 players scored at least one point, while Colgate only played 10 and got points from just six players.