Dominant first half leads Lehigh to bounce back 83-57 win over Navy

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team responded from a tough loss to Colgate by defeating Navy Saturday afternoon at Stabler Arena, using a strong defensive effort throughout the contest to hold the Midshipmen to only 57 points in a 83-57 win. Saturday’s game was part of Diversity and Inclusion day, presented by Lehigh’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. The point total tied a season-best for the Mountain Hawks’ defense, who also allowed 57 in November vs. Princeton. Junior Pat Andree led the Lehigh offense with 22 points, shooting 5-of-7 from three as the Mountain Hawks improved to 16-7 on the season, 9-3 in Patriot League play heading into a first-place showdown at Bucknell Monday night.

Lehigh took command of the game early, outscoring the Midshipmen 42-23 in the first half. Navy only led for 2:27 of the contest, but a 20-2 Lehigh run gave it a dominant lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Mountain Hawks held the Midshipmen to just 27.9 percent shooting, a season best for the Lehigh defense.

“We had a lot of our forwards and posts doing a great job defensive rebounding the basketball, an area which we struggled with in the first matchup against Navy,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed said. “Pat gave us a huge boost by knocking down shots, allowing us to really settle in and let us play with flow.”

Along with Andree’s 22 points, sophomore center James Karnik had nine rebounds, seven of which were defensive. Senior Lance Tejada scored 17 points to reach 998 in his career (including his time at East Carolina), while classmate Kyle Leufroy added 10 points. Thirteen Mountain Hawks saw minutes in the contest.

“It felt good. I needed it and we needed it,” Andree said. “I let myself get into a little bit of a slump (over the past few games) and it’s more mental than anything. Shooter’s mentality; you miss a shot, but get the next one. I’ve lived by that over the last couple games and came out tonight and hit my first one, started feeling good and my teammates kept finding me today. We ran a couple plays where we got quick hitters and really started working. Especially in that first stretch, we started 2-of-2 and that first shot just sparked it. After that, everybody just started getting hot and hitting shots.”

“It was really good that we were able to give Pat some of those opportunities, and they came pretty quickly,” Reed said. “His feet were set, he was trying to create space from his defense, and our guys delivered it on time. Pat’s release point is pretty high, and with a 6-foot-8 frame, that’s to his advantage. He was really stepping into his man, using his hands to create some separation and finding some space to get his shot. Those are the things you really want to see, because he does have the ability to see the ball and when he shoots the ball like that, it really opens up the game for us.”

Trailing 2-0 just over three minutes in, the Mountain Hawks scored 20 of the next 22 points, beginning with consecutive Andree threes and ending with a Jordan Cohen layup to give Lehigh a 20-4 edge with 9:58 left in the first half. Navy pulled as close as 10 on multiple occasions, but Lehigh used an 11-2 run, capped off by threes from Andree and Tejada, to take a 34-15 lead with 4:44 on the clock, on the way to the 42-23 halftime advantage.

Navy scored 13 of the first 20 second-half points to pull within 49-36, but that’s as close as the Midshipmen would come. Lehigh used a 14-3 run, beginning with another Andree three and ending with a pair of Caleb Bennett free throws, to open its largest lead at 70-44 with 6:45 remaining.

Acoveno scored four points down the stretch, while freshman Zedrek Farrell added three, to help the Mountain Hawks wrap up the 83-57 victory.

For the game, Lehigh shot 46.6 percent from the field (27-of-58), including 46.2 percent from three (12-of-26). Navy finished at 27.9 percent (17-of-61) and 20.0 percent from long range (6-of-30). The Mountain Hawks held a 48-33 edge in rebounds.

Lehigh returns to action in a battle the top spot in the Patriot League as the 9-3 Mountain Hawks travel to Lewisburg to take on 10-2 Bucknell. The 7 p.m. tipoff will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.

“We will take any win we can get, and hopefully we can do a good job in our next game and then the game after that,” Reed said. “It’s really one game at a time, an important game against Bucknell coming up and a short turnaround. Last time vs. Bucknell, we ended up putting ourselves in a position to win it, but we let it slip through our fingertips. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close it out, so this becomes an important game for us. Hopefully we can play a great brand of basketball that’s more reminiscent of tonight and not our game prior.”

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