Courtesy of LehighSports.com
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team ended the first half on a 6-0 run, extending the run to 31-7 in the second half, going up 53-33 on the way to a 72-57 win over visiting Princeton on Friday night at Stabler Arena. The win marked Lehigh’s third against the Tigers in as many seasons after winning just four times in the first 34 all-time meetings. The Mountain Hawks’ defense stood tall, holding Princeton to just 28.3 percent shooting, Lehigh’s best mark since Dec. 31, 2008 when it held NJIT to just 22.0 percent from the field.
“Defense has probably been the biggest difference for us in the early part of this season, where we’ve had focus, communication and intensity,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “I love the fact that our guys are really trying to work together as a defensive unit. Tonight, a little zone worked for us as well and we ended up getting a defensive rhythm. Princeton was a little bit out of rhythm on offense and it allowed us, especially once we started making shots, to extend the margin.”
Freshman Nic Lynch led the offense with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double in his first four collegiate games.
“Nic gave us a huge burst,” said Reed. “If you think about it, in the beginning of the game, it wasn’t necessarily point production. It was just activity on the glass. He seemed to get his hands on the basketball on multiple possessions. Not all of them even resulted in a rebound for us, but his activity level was extremely high. That’s a great sign and great sense of maturity for him that given an opportunity, he was ready to play. He brought toughness and intensity. And if you look at the stat sheet, he brought a great deal of production as well.”
Senior Lance Tejada had 15 points, including 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range. Two Mountain Hawks just missed double-doubles as junior Pat Andree had 12 points and eight rebounds while senior Kyle Leufroy had 10 points and nine boards. Leufroy has now tallied nine rebounds in three of his first four games this season, again helping Lehigh to a dominant edge on the glass (49-37 on Friday). Junior Jordan Cohen added 12 points as five Mountain Hawks scored in double figures.
A low-scoring start saw Princeton jump out to early leads of 5-2 and 7-4 before the Mountain Hawks used an 8-0 surge to take a 12-7 lead. The run included two points each from Leufroy, Andree, Lynch and sophomore Caleb Bennett, as Bennett’s driving layup gave Lehigh a 12-7 advantage with 11:42 left in the first half.
The Tigers pulled within three, but the Lehigh lead swelled back to eight as a Marques Wilson trey gave the Mountain Hawks a 19-11 advantage with 8:32 on the clock.
Princeton chipped away, using a 5-0 run to pull within 21-19, then later used a 7-0 surge to go up 26-22 with 2:35 remaining. The Mountain Hawks answered with six straight points to end the half, behind a Tejada three and Lynch three-point play, giving Lehigh a 28-26 halftime advantage.
Lehigh came out of the locker room with a vengeance, scoring the first seven points to take a 35-26 lead and force a quick Princeton timeout. Eventually, the run reached 16-3 to begin the second half (22-3 dating back to the first half) as a Tejada three forced a second Tigers’ timeout, then Andree’s second trey in the first 3:59 of the stanza gave Lehigh a 44-29 lead with 16:01 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks’ lead kept growing as the run eventually reached 31-7 since the end of the first half as a Lynch offensive layup and putback gave the Mountain Hawks a 53-33 advantage with 9:29 left in the second half.
Princeton made a late surge to within nine with 2:46 remaining, but the Mountain Hawks built their lead back to 15, which proved to be the final margin.
Lehigh shot 38.5 percent for the game (25-of-65), including 33.3 percent from three-point range (7-of-21). Princeton finished at just 28.3 percent (17-of-60) and 12.5 percent from long distance (4-of-32).
Lehigh men’s basketball team held an opponent to under 45 percent shooting. Fans in attendance received a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees courtesy of The Brick in Bethlehem.
The Mountain Hawks hit the road next week for games on Wednesday (Nov. 21) at Siena and Saturday (Nov. 24) at Kansas State.