Courtesy of LehighSports.com
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team trailed 62-53 with less than eight minutes remaining against a hot-shooting Marist team, but the Mountain Hawks answered in a big way, scoring 25 of the final 35 points to win their home opener, 78-72 on Tuesday evening in Stabler Arena. The Red Foxes knocked down 15 of their first 24 three-pointers, but the Mountain Hawks hung within striking distance while shooting 62 percent from the field themselves in the second half. Senior Kyle Leufroy led the charge with a career-high tying 23 points, 20 coming in the second half. The win was the 200th of head coach Brett Reed’s career, becoming the fourth coach in Patriot League history to reach that milestone.
“If we can play defense, we can overcome a night where in the first half we couldn’t buy a bucket; we had open looks and easy opportunities, but defense obviously pulls you through,” said Reed. “For us to get eight consecutive shots at the end of the game was absolutely phenomenal.”
Leufroy finished 8-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. Before the game, Leufroy was recognized for scoring his 1,000th career point in the season opener at Monmouth. By the end of Tuesday’s game, his 23 points moved him from a tie for 35th all the way to 33rd on the Lehigh career scoring list (currently 1,036 points). Senior Lance Tejada had 16 points while junior Pat Andree tallied his fifth-career double-double with 16 points and 10 boards. Classmate Jordan Cohen added 11 points and seven rebounds while sophomore Caleb Bennett had seven points and four rebounds.
“Marist played a very, very good game tonight,” said Reed. “They played well and didn’t beat themselves. They stepped up and made shots, and from what I’ve seen of them in their first three games, they’re going to be a pretty good team .Some of their shots they hit were not wide-open shots. All our guys worked together to collectively keep the ball in front and hold them to one shot. It was a nice orchestrated effort for guys who were really committed to digging in, showing toughness and a great sense of defensive unity.”
Marist jumped out to an early first-half lead, going up by seven on multiple occasions. After a Bennett free throw pulled the Mountain Hawks within 24-18 with 6:22 on the clock, the Red Foxes used consecutive threes to open a 30-18 advantage with 3:59 remaining.
Lehigh ended the half on a 10-3 run, behind three-pointers from Leufroy and Tejada and four points from Cohen, including an offensive rebound and putback as time expired, to pull the Mountain Hawks within 33-28 at the half.
After five straight Lehigh points gave the Mountain Hawks a 53-51 lead, the Red Foxes immediately used a 10-0 run, capped off by a Brian Parker trey, to give Marist a 62-53 lead with 8:56 remaining.From there, the Mountain Hawks scored 16 of the next 22 points to take a 69-68 lead following an Andree layup with 4:38 on the clock. The lead went back-and-forth over the ensuing minutes, but a Cohen layup with 3:27 to go gave Lehigh a 73-72 advantage, a lead the Mountain Hawks wouldn’t relinquish. Lehigh followed with a Leufroy jumper and three Leufroy free throws, while holding Marist scoreless for the final 4:00 to end the game on a 9-0 run.
For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot 48.3 percent from the field (29-of-60), including 48.1 percent from three-point range (13-of-27). Marist finished at 41.8 percent (23-of-55), and 51.7 percent from long distance (15-of-29). The Mountain Hawks outrebounded Marist, 36-30.Lehigh will return home on Friday to host Princeton at 8:30 p.m. in the second of a Lehigh basketball doubleheader after the women welcome Villanova at 6 p.m.