Lehigh rallies late to beat Loyola (MD)

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team trailed by nine with seven minutes left in the second half, but outscored the visiting Loyola Greyhounds 23-7 the rest of the way for a thrilling 78-71 win on Sunday afternoon in Stabler Arena. The much-needed victory snapped the Mountain Hawks’ eight-game losing streak (seven of those games were on the road) and improved their Patriot League record to 1-1. Freshman Reed Fenton led the offense with a career-high 19 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 3:58 on the clock, and a big insurance jumper to put the Mountain Hawks ahead by six with 35 seconds remaining.

Reed Fenton is really a glue guy,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “As a coach, you’ve got a lot of confidence and trust in him because generally speaking, he’s going to execute our defensive game plan, he’s going to execute our offense, he’s going to have good ball security and he’s going to cover up for some other people’s mistakes. Tonight, he knocked down some shots. When you get that type of offensive production from Reed then get another burst from Marques Wilson, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

In a game that was similar to several during its losing streak, Lehigh found itself right in the contest heading down the stretch. This time, the Mountain Hawks made big play after big play.

“It’s so nice to be back home,” said Reed. “We were on the road forever. Our guys embraced being home. I thought they started the game with a great deal of energy. Fortunately, we produced and performed. Sometimes, being in the gym you shoot in all the time, and you’re really comfortable in, can help you and help your confidence.”

Along with Fenton’s 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, junior James Karnik posted 18 points and seven rebounds. Classmate Marques Wilson reached double-figure points for a second straight game, posting a season-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. Senior Jordan Cohen rounded out four Mountain Hawks in double figures, scoring 14 while adding six assists and three steals. Sophomore Jeameril Wilson had seven points and a career-high tying four assists while classmate Nic Lynch scored four points in his season debut.

One game after scoring a career-high 37 points, the Mountain Hawks contained the Patriot League’s leading scorer Andrew Kostecka (who was averaging 23.4 points per game coming in), holding him to 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

The first half saw the Mountain Hawks begin with a 14-4 run and end with a 16-5 run while in between, the Greyhounds held a 27-6 edge. Karnik helped spark the strong start with eight of Lehigh’s first 12 points (two of which were dunks). Two Jeameril Wilson free throws gave the Mountain Hawks a 14-4 advantage less than five minutes into the contest.

The Greyhounds controlled the middle stages of the half, eventually taking a 31-20 lead with 3:57 on the clock following a Kostecka 3-pointer. That’s when Lehigh made its late first-half rally. Lynch helped cap off the 16-5 run with four points in the final 1:11, including a short jumper as time expired to even the score at 36 following 20 minutes of play. Marques Wilson also scored five points during the run.

Loyola regained control early in the second half, holding a multiple-possession advantage for most of the early stages. As the half progressed, Lehigh pulled within three multiple times, but the Greyhounds answered to retake a 64-55 edge with 7:24 remaining.

At that point, the Mountain Hawks took over, immediately staging an 8-0 run in just 1:23 – capped off by 3-pointers from Fenton and Cohen, which pulled Lehigh within 64-63 with 5:31 to go.

Less than two minutes later, a Fenton 3-pointer pulled the Mountain Hawks even at 66 while just 1:28 after that, Jeameril Wilson knocked down a big trey to tie the score at 69. A Karnik layup with 1:50 remaining gave Lehigh the lead for good, with two Marques Wilson free throws and Fenton providing insurance.

For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot 49.2 percent from the field (30-of-61), including 40.0 percent from 3-point range (8-of-20). Loyola finished at 46.3 percent (25-of-54) and 20.0 percent from long distance (4-of-20). The Greyhounds held a 33-31 edge in rebounds. Lehigh turned the ball over just 11 times, its second lowest total of the season. Loyola finished with 15 turnovers.

Lehigh now hits the road on Wednesday to play at Boston University at 7 p.m. The Mountain Hawks return home on Saturday to host American at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets online, please click here.

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