BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team jumped out to a 32-3 lead just over 10 minutes into the game, then continued to roll as the Mountain Hawks (6-2) topped Fairleigh Dickinson 102-62 on Saturday evening in Stabler Arena. Lehigh shot 63 percent from the field (38-of-60) and 58 percent from three-point range (11-of-19) in an offensive clinic. Four Mountain Hawks scored double figures while all 13 players scored in Lehigh’s fifth straight win, 10th straight victory and 10th consecutive over an NEC foe.
“We’ve seen elements this season where we’ve had good halves and been able to put some point production together, but ultimately to come through with 102 points is quite a difference,” Lehigh said head coach Brett Reed. “Early on, our defense ignited our offense because we were able to get steals and some easy opportunities. That allowed us to build our confidence.”
The win marked Reed’s 100th of his career as he became the fastest coach in Patriot League history to reach that milestone. He got his 100th in his 164th game, two better than Holy Cross’ Ralph Willard who posted his 100th in his 166th contest.
Senior C.J. McCollum led the way with an efficient 23 points in only 24 minutes played. He shot 9-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range while adding three rebounds, three assists and four steals. Sophomore Stefan Cvrkalj netted a career-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 from long range.
Seniors Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner added double figures with 16 and 11 points, respectively, combining to hit 10-of-12 shots from the field. Freshman Devon Carter scored his first career points while sophomore Tyrone Staggers added his first points of the season.
“We have a lot of important pieces to our team,” said Reed. “We have players that will make strong contributions for us, perhaps this year, and throughout their careers. They may not get the same volume of minutes as our starters do, but the minutes they receive will help them grow and prepare for when they’re called upon.”
Lehigh eclipsed 100 points for the first time since Jan. 23, 2004, a 111-104 overtime loss at Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks eclipsed 100 in a victory for the first time since Nov. 26, 1994, a 105-89 win over Cornell.
A strong crowd of 2,024 witnessed the victory, creating an electric atmosphere the entire night.
“It’s so important that the crowd factors in and I hope the fans here ultimately understand that, along with the rest of our community and student body,” said Reed. “In a game like this, I know from the start that our players had the focus and mentality, and they want to perform at a high level because people were here to see them and they want to be able to provide that type of show.”
Lehigh got out to a 45-point lead with 8:29 left in the second half before holding on for a 40-point win, its largest margin of victory since beating Arcadia 95-55 last season. It marked the Mountain Hawks’ largest win over a Division I opponent since Dec. 7, 1989, a 95-54 triumph over Colgate.
Melquan Bolding gave Fairleigh Dickinson a 2-0 lead with 19:04 on the clock, but Lehigh responded in a big way. The Mountain Hawks immediately went on a 23-0 run over the next 8:47 to take a stranglehold in the early going.
McCollum got it started on the ensuing possession, knocking down a three-pointer. McCollum and Knutson combined for Lehigh’s first 12 points (six apiece) as a Knutson layup off a nifty feed from McCollum made it 14-2 with 15:09 left in the first half.
Less than three minutes later, Greiner finished a thunderous alley-oop from McCollum to make it 18-2 and get the crowd on its feet. The run eventually extended to 23-0 as Cvrkalj knocked down a three to make it 23-2 with 10:17 on the clock.
Bolding hit a free throw to end an 8:47 scoreless drought, but Lehigh answered, extending its run to 32-3 after a Greiner three from the corner.
The strong play and strong passing continued as sophomore Corey Schaefer found freshman Justin Goldsborough for a layup, making it 40-9 with 5:42 on the clock. Carter scored his first career points with 42 seconds to go, knocking down a pair of free throws to make it 46-17, which stood as the halftime score.
Lehigh shot a dazzling 62 percent in the first half (16-of-26) and 50 percent from three-point range (5-of-10). Fairleigh Dickinson finished at 25 percent (5-of-20) and 20 percent from long distance (1-of-5). The Mountain Hawks caused 16 first-half turnovers while assisting on 12 of their 16 first-half baskets.
Lehigh scored the first four points of the second behind a McCollum floater and Greiner jumper to make it 50-17. The Mountain Hawks took a 60-25 advantage with 16:12 on the clock behind a D’Orazio layup, his second basket in the span of 2:03.
The roll continued as the Mountain Hawks took their first 40-point lead behind a Cvrkalj three, making it 71-32 with 12:40 to go. McCollum followed with a driving layup then three-pointer on the ensuing possessions for a 76-32 advantage.
Lehigh’s lead grew to as much as 45 following a Cvrkalj fastbreak layup which made it 78-33 with 8:29 remaining. Fairleigh Dickinson responded with a 10-2 run to pull within 80-43, but a Baltimore layup and Cvrkalj layup off a nice feed from Carter put Lehigh up 41 (84-43) with 5:43 to go.
The Knights pulled within 39 at 93-54 following a Lonnie Robinson jumper with 2:43 to go, but the Mountain Hawks’ offense caught fire once again to reach the 100-point plateau. Carter hit a three-pointer to make it 96-54 then Cvrkalj knocked down his fourth trey of the game. Senior Cory Goodman added a three with 28 seconds remaining to give Lehigh 100 points and the 102-62 win.
Lehigh shot 63 percent from the field (38-of-60) and 58 percent from long distance (11-of-19). Fairleigh Dickinson finished at 37 percent (20-of-54) and 42 percent from three-point range (8-of-19). The Mountain Hawks controlled the boards, 37-24.
Lehigh remains home to host Fordham on Tuesday (7 p.m.) before heading to Saint Francis (Pa.) next Saturday (Dec. 8).
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