Courtesy of LehighSports.com
WORCESTER, Mass. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team trailed by as many as 18 in the first half then 12 at halftime, but outscored Holy Cross 29-10 over the first 10:20 of the second half, on its way to a thrilling 99-94 overtime win on Wednesday evening at the Hart Center. Senior Lance Tejada was sensational, scoring a career-high 36 points shooting 11-of-16 from the field, including 10-of-14 from three-point range.
The 10 made threes tied a school record, held by current junior Pat Andree in 2016 and Joe Knight in 2005. Tejada’s 10th trey came with 10 seconds left in overtime, giving the Mountain Hawks a four-point advantage and all but wrapping up Lehigh’s 10th win of the season. Lehigh is now 10-4 overall and 3-0 in the Patriot League, standing as the only undefeated team in the league.
“For sure when I hit the shot going into halftime, I knew it was one of those games that if I got a pretty good look, that I’m going to take it and I’m going to make it,” said Tejada. “I got a lot of rhythm shots too; my teammates set me up well.”
Lehigh handed Holy Cross its first home defeat of the season. The Crusaders entered the game 10-5 overall following a strong nonleague season. Lehigh also picked up a second straight win at Holy Cross for the first time in school history. Last season’s win in Worcester helped spark an eight-game winning streak to end the regular season. Carrying the momentum forward into this year, the Mountain Hawks are now 18-5 since last January’s win at Holy Cross.
Tejada’s 36 points are most by a Lehigh player since Tim Kempton also had 36 on Jan. 8, 2017 vs. American. He is the second Mountain Hawk to score 30 in a game this season (also Pat Andree at Monmouth).
“LT was zoned in,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We needed every single one of those buckets. He had a lot of good looks, and he was able to knock them down. LT was able to carry us and we had other guys who made shots. We had a really, really strong run at the beginning of the second half that was predicated on our defense where our guys answered the call and got the stops. We got ourselves back into the game with a lot of the game left. Many times, a team will expend a lot of energy, come close, fall shot, and the other team pulls away.”
Along with Tejada, three other Mountain Hawks scored in double figures. Senior Kyle Leufroy had 19 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for his first-career double-double. Junior Jordan Cohen added 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three, while Andree posted 11.
Lehigh’s 99 points came against the No. 1 scoring defense in the Patriot League (65.3 entering the day). It’s the most points scored against Holy Cross since Nov. 13, 2013. The last time a team scored 90 vs. the Crusaders was Nov. 15, 2016 at Syracuse.
Holy Cross was red hot in the first half, finishing the half shooting 70.0 percent from the field (21-of-30), including 81.8 percent from three (9-of-11).
An Andree trey gave Lehigh an early 9-8 lead, but Holy Cross scored 18 of the next 24 points as an Austin Butler three gave the Crusaders a 26-15 lead with 12:15 on the clock. The margin reached 14 following a Kyle Copeland three-pointer, giving Holy Cross a 38-24 advantage with 7:02 left in the first. The margin kept increasing, eventually reaching 18 (46-28) following a pair of Jehyve Floyd free throws with 5:22 on the clock.
Lehigh ended the half with seven of the final 10 points as a Tejada three as time expired pulled the Mountain Hawks within 59-47 following 20 minutes of play.
Lehigh came out of the locker room on fire, staging a 21-6 run to turn the 12-point deficit into a three-point lead. Tejada knocked down a trio of three-pointers before the half was four minutes old. A few minutes later, a James Karnik free throw pulled Lehigh even at 65 with 13:02 left in the second half, then a Cohen three-pointer coming out of a timeout gave the Mountain Hawks a 68-65 advantage, their first lead since 9-8.
The run continued as eight straight points gave Lehigh a double-figure lead, capped off by Tejada’s seventh trey of the game to give the Mountain Hawks a 76-66 advantage with 9:40 still remaining.
With Lehigh leading 79-70, the Crusaders slowly chipped away. They ended up going on a 14-4 run over the next six minutes, taking an 84-83 lead following a Jacob Grandison jumper with 1:26 on the clock. A Leufroy three on the other end gave the Mountain Hawks a two-point lead before a Floyd basket evened the score, forcing overtime.
Tejada continued his hot shooting in the extra period, knocking down two early threes in the first 1:44 to help the Mountain Hawks go up 95-88 with 3:16 on the clock. Holy Cross pulled within one heading into the final minute, but Tejada drained a huge three with 10 seconds remaining, giving Lehigh a four-point lead, on the way to the 99-94 final.
“Even in overtime, that shows a lot of character and a lot of heart for our guys to answer the call with the challenge we had for them on defense,” said Reed. “They were able to deal with difficult circumstances, expending so much energy, coming back and winning on the road in overtime against a good team, a team that plays great defense and a team tonight that was playing good offense as well.”
The Mountain Hawks finished shooting 47.7 percent from the field (31-of-65), including 45.5 percent from three-point range (15-of-33). After sizzling first-half shooting, the Crusaders shot 40.0 percent in the second half (10-of-25) and 22.2 percent from three (2-of-9) to finish at 55.7 percent (34-of-61) and 57.1 percent (12-of-21). Lehigh held a 35-34 edge in rebounds.
The Mountain Hawks continue on the road on Saturday when they play at Colgate. Opening tipoff is set for 4 p.m.