Late first-half surge helps Lehigh past Arkansas State, 82-70

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Trailing 22-9 in the first half, the Lehigh men’s basketball team immediately answered with a 16-0 run, outscoring Arkansas State 32-8 over the final 11:14 of the first half to beat the Red Wolves, 82-70 on Saturday afternoon in Stabler Arena. Senior Kyle Leufroy led the offense with 20 points, 16 coming in the first half, while junior Pat Andree scored 14 and senior Lance Tejada had 12 and a career-high tying seven assists. With the win, the Mountain Hawks improve to 5-2 on the season, their best record after seven games since the 2012-13 campaign.

“That was really impressive for me because we did it in a variety of different ways,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We had 12 assists on 17 first-half field goals, so we were willing to share the ball. We’ve seen that in the past where we’ll make shots, but why the game was able to turn so quickly in our favor was that we allowed eight points in the last 11 minutes of the first half.

“A lot of times, we’ve had the spurt ability of being able to score and make shots, but be content to trade baskets,” Reed continued. “This year’s team has a mentality that they’re adopting and living into, which is taking pride in their defense and playing with energy.”

Leufroy reached 20 points for the third time through seven games this season, and ninth time in his career. He finished the game shooting 7-of-9 from the field, including a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range. Andree’s 14 points came on 6-of-11 shooting while Tejada shot 5-of-11 from the field, including 2-of-4 from long distance. Junior Jordan Cohen had eight points, six rebounds and five assists while freshman Jeameril Wilson scored eight points, all in the second half.

Ty Cockfield led Arkansas State with 30 points on 9-of-21 shooting. He was the only Red Wolves’ player to reach double-figure points.

Five straight points in the early going, behind layups from Leufroy and sophomore James Karnik, gave Lehigh a 9-8 lead just over five minutes into the contest. Arkansas State responded with a 14-0 run as a Kobe Wilson three-pointer gave the Red Wolves a 22-9 advantage with 11:14 remaining in the first half.

Lehigh had an answer, posting 16-0 run, beginning with a three-pointer and layup from Andree, and ending with a Karnik dunk off a tremendous pass from sophomore Caleb Bennett. A Tejada jumper wrapped up the run and gave the Mountain Hawks a 25-22 lead with 5:19 on the clock.

Lehigh continued to build its lead and when all was said and down, the Mountain Hawks ended the half on a 32-8 run over the final 11:14. Leufroy ended the half with 16 points, including a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range, all coming in the final 4:40 of the half. A Tejada three-pointer with 18 seconds remaining wrapped up the scoring and gave Lehigh a 41-30 halftime advantage.

“We ended up getting a unit out there, five guys who made that run and then we just rode them,” said Reed. “told our guys if you play really well and we make a run, you can stay out there on the floor. Sometimes, you start to get a little complacent [in the midst of a big run], but we showed great discipline, maturity and leadership.”

Arkansas State scored 11 of the first 16 second-half points, pulling within five, 46-41, with 17:03 on the clock.

Not long after, Lehigh responded with an 8-0 run as a Bennett layup gave the Mountain Hawks a 56-43 advantage with 12:41 to go. Arkansas State had another run in it, getting back to within 59-54 with 9:50 remaining, but that’s as close as it would come. The Mountain Hawks later used an 8-1 run to erase any doubt, turning a 68-60 lead into a 76-61 advantage following eight straight points from Jeameril Wilson in the span of 1:04 – behind a three-point play, three and two free throws.

For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot 54.4 percent from the field (31-of-57), including 56.3 percent from three-point range (9-of-16). Arkansas State finished at 30.7 percent (23-of-75) and 34.5 percent from long distance (10-of-29). The Red Wolves held a 48-35 edge on the boards.

“Over the course of the game, we didn’t have an answer for their offensive rebounds and we didn’t really have a great answer for Cockfield, just with his ability to drive,” said Reed. “Beyond those two factors, we had a lot of solid defensive possessions and certainly great resiliency and toughness to be able to share the basketball and muster some stops.”

Lehigh will return to action on Wednesday when it heads to Yale to face the Bulldogs at 7 p.m.

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