BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Senior Alexa Williams and junior Kelly Peterson posted career highs of 23 and 17 points respectively to pace Lehigh(11-8, 4-1 PL) past Lafayette (7-13, 1-4 PL) 68-55 Saturday. The duo combined for 14 of Lehigh’s 22 made field goals while defensively, the Mountain Hawks held Lafayette to one field goal in the game’s final four minutes. With the victory, the Mountain Hawks now sit in sole possession of second place in the Patriot League.
“We had a really strong defensive team effort tonight,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “Alexa had a great game. She was really aggressive on the offensive end; that’s the most aggressive I’ve seen her. She did a great job finishing around the basket. And Kelly was a huge spark off the bench hitting big threes.”
Lehigh finished the game shooting 33 percent (22-for-67) from the field including 24 percent from behind the arc (5-for-21) while Lafayette shot 30 percent (16-for-53) and 23 percent (3-for-13) from three. Lehigh held a convincing rebound advantage 53-39 including 22-14 on the offensive glass. The teams combined for 38 turnovers (18 for Lehigh, 20 for Lafayette). Lehigh was 19-for-26 from the free-throw line while Lafayette was 20-for-27.
Both schools got off to a slow start as the teams went a combined 1-for-11 from the floor (0-for-6 for the Mountain Hawks) as Lehigh trailed 2-0 with 15:46 left. Lehigh got on the board with 14:41 to go as Williams went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line and the Mountain Hawks’ first field goal came shortly after as senior Aly Byorick nailed a three to tie the game at 4-4.
The game continued its sloppy pace as the teams were a combined 4-for-23 with 10 turnovers halfway through the first half. The pace settled down as Lehigh went on a 10-0 run over three minutes to take a 21-10 lead with 6:04 left. Williams hit a pair of free throws and then Peterson and Byorick both hit threes and senior Kelela Blake capped off the run with a layup off an offensive rebound.
Blake’s layup with 6:04 left would be Lehigh’s last field goal of the half as the Mountain Hawks managed just four free throws the rest of the way while Lafayette went on an 11-4 run to end the half as Lehigh led 25-21 at the break.
Lehigh was 7-for-36 from the field including 4-for-14 from behind the arc while Lafayette was 7-for-24 including 1-for-6 from three. The Mountain Hawks held the rebounding advantage 27-21 including an impressive 13-4 on the offensive glass which led Lehigh to a 12-4 edge on second-chance points. Lehigh was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line while Lafayette was 6-for-7.
The Mountain Hawks were led by eight points from Peterson on a pair of threes and two made free throws while Byorick also had two threes for six points. Peterson and Byorick were the only Mountain Hawks in the opening half to have more than one field goal.
Lehigh opened the second half on a 9-0 run to extend its lead to 34-21 with 15:54 to go. Williams had five of those points while senior Emily Gratch and freshman Katie O’Reilly each added a layup.
After Lafayette made a pair of free throws, Peterson hit a jumper and then nailed a three pointer for a personal 5-0 run to put the Mountain Hawks up 39-23 with 13:50 left.
The Mountain Hawks continued to step up its defensive pressure as it held Lafayette without a field goal for the first six and a half minutes of the second half.
The teams then exchanged a few baskets as Lehigh continued to hold on to its double-digit lead for most of the second half but then Lafayette went on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to nine, 56-47 with 4:41 to go.
Peterson ended the run with a jumper, but the Leopards came back and hit a pair of free throws to again cut Lehigh’s lead to single digits with 3:47 left. Lehigh then responded with an 8-0 with all eight points coming from Williams to put the game away for good.
Williams’ previous career high was 18 points which came last year’s Patriot League Championship game against American. Williams added eight rebounds and is now one rebound away from 700 for her career which will make her the 23rd student-athlete in League history with 700.
Peterson’s previous career high was 16 which she had on December 5th against Loyola (Md.).
Gratch added six points, eight rebounds and five steals before fouling out late in the game. Gratch is now 40 points away from 1,000 for her career. And Blake provided a spark with five points, five rebounds and two steals.
Lafayette was led by a double-double from Danielle Fiacco as she finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds and added five blocks and two steals.
Lehigh held Emily Homan, who entered the game averaging 10.7 points, to just two points.
With the win, Lehigh improved to 39-41 all-time vs. Lafayette as the Mountain Hawks are now 9-1 in the 10 meetings. Lehigh also improved to 8-2 at Stabler Arena and is now 6-0 on Saturdays this season.
Lehigh will now hit the road for three straight games starting with Navy Wednesday at 7 p.m.