Lehigh cruises past Monmouth, 85-61 for impressive season-opening road win

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team opened a six-point halftime lead then used a 15-3 run early in the second to create separation, taking as much as a 30-point advantage on the way to an 85-61 win at Monmouth on Tuesday evening in the season opener for both teams. The 24-point win marked Lehigh’s largest margin of victory in an opener since the 1985-86 season.

Junior Pat Andree led the charge with a career-high 31 points in a homecoming game while senior Kyle Leufroy became the 36th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. In the end, 10 Mountain Hawks scored on Tuesday with four reaching double figures.

Defensively, Lehigh held Monmouth to just 19-of-56 shooting (33.9 percent), including just 4-of-21 from three-point range (19.0 percent).

“It was really important that we established our defensive identity and tonight, we were able to do that,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “That has been really critical for our success and something we talk about every single day in practice. The fact that we could hold a talented and athletic Monmouth team down and control the game from the defensive end of the floor and control the game on the glass is a great sign for us. And obviously, when you get a huge shot in the arm like Pat Andree in a homecoming game like he was able to provide us, that makes all the difference in the world, especially when you’re getting stops.”

Andree’s 31 points came on 9-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point range. Classmate Jordan Cohen had 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting while Leufroy had 11 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Nic Lynch added 10 points, eight coming in the second half.

Andree was red-hot in the first half, scoring 17 points. He helped fuel a 13-0 Mountain Hawks’ run to build a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. With Monmouth leading 7-3, junior Jordan Cohen connected on a jumper then Andree scored the game’s next 11 points. His third trey of the early going gave Lehigh a 16-7 lead with 13:35 left in the first half.

Later in the half, a Cohen jumper gave Lehigh its first double-digit lead at 23-13. A few minutes later, a jumper from Lynch gave him his first-career points and gave the Mountain Hawks their largest first-half advantage of 11, 27-16, with 6:22 on the first-half clock.

Leading 36-30 at the half, Lehigh’s lead hovered between five and nine over the first two minutes of the second half. That’s when the Mountain Hawks took over, going on a 15-3 run to turn a 42-35 lead into a 57-38 advantage. Lynch helped spark the run, scoring eight early second-half points, including a dunk off a nifty feed from Leufroy, giving the Mountain Hawks a 51-38 lead just over four minutes into the stanza.

The lead kept expanding as the half progressed. The final seven minutes saw Leufroy knock down a corner three to reach 1,000 in his career, while sophomore James Karnik finished an alley-oop from Cohen, and Andree scored his 31st point to reach a new career high. Junior David Roelke and freshman Joe Foley also scored their first-career points in the final minute, joining Lynch and Jeameril Wilson as Mountain Hawks to do so on Tuesday.

For the game, Lehigh shot 49.2 percent from the field (29-of-59), including 40.7 percent from three-point range (11-of-27). The Mountain Hawks dominated the boards, 47-28.

Lehigh will return to action on Friday when it plays at Miami of the ACC. Opening tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.

“I’m learning about our team and I’m learning about them in every single possession,” said Reed. “We had some situations tonight when we had to play different lineups. I know Miami will be a significant challenge for us. We’ll have to compete at a very high level. There were some positive things that we can hopefully hang onto moving forward, and certainly an opportunity to improve from tonight’s performance as well. We will need to based on the type of quality opponent we’re going to face.”

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