Lehigh drops nail biter, 64-58 at Navy

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team put together a 12-0 first-half run to go up double figures, but Navy responded with an 11-0 run and went on to down the Mountain Hawks, 64-58 in the Patriot League opener for both sides on Thursday evening. Junior Marques Wilson led Lehigh’s offense with season highs in points (12) and assists (5) while freshman Jake Betlow added a career-high 11 points. After seven of the last eight games on the road, the Mountain Hawks finally return home on Sunday, Jan. 5 to host Loyola at 2 p.m.

“I thought our guys did a great job bringing energy,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. Everyone was so into it. We got tremendous contributions, even from guys coming off the bench. Jeameril Wilson got us some extra possessions to solidify that we had come to play. Unfortunately, when you’re up 12, you don’t want to give them momentum going into the half. We trailed off a little bit and we ended up having two charges, some turnovers and questionable shots. All that moment we had built was pretty much erased.”

Marques Wilson, Betlow and sophomore Jeameril Wilson (10 points) combined for 33 of the Mountain Hawks’ 58 points. Betlow was 4-of-6 from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range while Marques Wilson shot 4-of-7 from the field. Senior Jordan Cohen struggled offensively, scoring five points on 1-of-11 shooting while junior James Karnik had six points and seven boards, shooting 2-of-7.

“If a guy’s having an off night, other people have to step up,” said Reed. “Jake Betlow played with confidence and energy. He was a good communicator out there. He was ready to step into the moment. Obviously, knocking down shots is huge, and he’s been shooting it better in practice which is really nice to see. We also had really solid production from Marques Wilson and Reed Fenton (seven points), enough to keep us in the game when some of our primary cogs were not necessarily having the best night.”

The story of the first half was two big runs, one by each team. Trailing 13-12 after a Navy 3-pointer, Betlow responded just 32 seconds later with a three of his own. That sparked a 12-0 run, which also included seven points from Marques Wilson and a Karnik layup. A Wilson trey put the Mountain Hawks in front, 24-13 with 8:12 remaining in the first half.

Lehigh would extend its lead to 12 after another Wilson layup, but not long after, Navy staged an 11-0 run of its own to trim that 28-16 Lehigh lead down to 28-27. Freshman Jakob Alamudun ended an exactly six-minute Mountain Hawks’ scoring drought as Lehigh still went into halftime with a 30-29 advantage, despite scoring just two points over the final 7:18 of the first.

Navy knocked down 3-pointers on its first two second-half possessions to take a five-point, 35-30 advantage. From there, the Mountain Hawks clawed into the deficit, but could never retake the lead. On three occasions, Lehigh pulled within one, including following two Marques Wilson free throws made the score 43-42 with 10:29 on the clock.

Jeameril Wilson trey got Lehigh back within two, 50-48, with 5:16 remaining, then less than a minute later, two Cohen free throws got the Mountain Hawks within 52-50. But that’s as close as Lehigh would come, as Navy hit enough free throws down the stretch to wrap up the 64-58 victory.

Lehigh finished at 39.6 percent from the field (21-of-53), including 36.0 percent from 3-point range (9-of-25). Navy shot 40.4 percent (19-of-47) and 37.5 percent from long distance (9-of-24). The Mids got to the line 23 times (hitting 17) compared to Lehigh’s seven makes in eight attempts. The Mountain Hawks recorded 10 steals, the third time this season with double-figure steals. Navy finished with a 35-29 edge in rebounds, 24-12 in the second half.

“There were a lot of positive signs here today,” said Reed. “If you think about it, how many games is Jordan Cohen going to shoot 1-for-11? I believe in that kid and I know he’s going to play better. When you’re scoring in the 50s as a team, that makes it tough.

“These guys have a lot of heart and a lot of fight,” Reed continued. “Hopefully, they can stay the course and not get discouraged. It’s going to be important that everyone around them gives them encouragement because if they bring that type of effort, I think we’ll be okay. This team played hard tonight. We just have to play a little bit more effectively and control the glass so that toughness variable really us pushes over the top.”

The Mountain Hawks return home on Sunday, Jan. 5 to host Loyola at 2 p.m.

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