Lehigh opens season at Minnesota

Mackey McKnight (Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)
Mackey McKnight (Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Entering a new era of Lehigh men’s basketball, the Mountain Hawks will open the 2013-14 season on Friday when they travel to Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. locally) on ESPN3. Lehigh is coming off three 20-win seasons and national postseason appearances in its last four years, including a College Basketball Invitational appearance a season ago. Minnesota advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, beating UCLA in the Second Round before succumbing to Florida in the Round of 32.

Friday’s game will air live online on ESPN3 by clicking here. It can also be heard locally on ESPN Radio of the Lehigh Valley.

Senior Mackey McKnight leads a Lehigh team that features seven newcomers along with sophomore Jesse Chuku who was forced to sit out last season. McKnight isn’t alone, though, as senior Anthony D’Orazio played in all 31 games (starting 29) while averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. Juniors Stefan Cvrkalj and Corey Schaefer also return after taking big steps a season ago. They averaged 4.7 and 4.6 points, respectively.

A talented freshman class features several players who look to make an immediate impact. Austin Price and Tim Kemptonare projected to be in the regular rotation, as do Miles Simelton and Shane Whitfield.

Minnesota marks the first of several 2013 NCAA Tournament teams Lehigh will face this season. The Mountain Hawks could face up to five, playing Pittsburgh, LIU Brooklyn, Bucknell and possibly South Dakota State. Additionally, Lehigh will face four teams that advanced to other national postseason tournaments.

Lehigh is looking to win its season opener for the first time since 2008-09 when the Mountain Hawks beat Saint Peter’s, 79-62.Friday will mark the earliest game in school history (Nov. 8), beating the previous earliest game when Lehigh played at St. John’s on Nov. 9, 2011. With a win, Lehigh would improve to 31-11 over its last 42 games dating back to February of 2012. The Mountain Hawks are looking for their first-ever win over a member of the Big Ten. Lehigh has defeated Penn State, but that came before the Nittany Lions joined the conference.

Minnesota is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last season after winning the NIT in 2011-12. The Golden Gophers defeated UCLA in the Second Round before falling to Florida in the Round of 32. Minnesota finished the season 21-13 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten, including an impressive 15-2 at home. This year’s squad is led by new head coach Richard Pitino, son of legendary coach and current Louisville head man Rick Pitino. Minnesota returns its top two returning scorers in Andrew Hollins (14.6 points per game) and Austin Hollins (10.7). Joe Coleman averaged 8.7 points per game. Minnesota loses its top two leading rebounders. Andre Hollins is also the returning leader in rebounds and assists.

Lehigh and Minnesota have never played.

Following Friday’s game, Lehigh will return home to welcome Rider for its home opener on Tuesday (Nov. 12) at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online by clicking here, including a print-at-home option, or by calling the ticket office at 610-7LU-GAME (610-758-4263). Individual game tickets are only five dollars and season tickets are also available.

Date: November 8, 2013
Opponent: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Tip-off: 8:00 PM ET
Arena/Capacity: Williams Arena/14,626
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Lehigh’s Record: 0-0, 0-0 Patriot League
Minnesota’s Record: 0-0, 0-0 Patriot League
Series: First Meeting
Radio: Live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM and Lehighsports.com with Tom Fallon. Pregame coverage gets underway at 7:30 PM
Television: ESPN3
Internet Video: ESPN3
Behind Enemy Lines: Gophersports.com

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