Lehigh evens Patriot League record with wire-to-wire win over American

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team opened an early 15-2 lead and wouldn’t trail the rest of the way as the Mountain Hawks improved to 2-2 in Patriot League play with an impressive 82-73 win over American on Saturday evening in Stabler Arena. A balanced team effort saw four Lehigh players score double-figure points, led by 25 points and a career-high tying eight assists from senior Jordan Cohen. The win was Lehigh’s 10th straight over the Eagles dating back to 2016.

“Tonight was a great team win in a lot of different ways,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We had a number of individual players step forward, but you could really see a lot of collective strength, grit and determination. I thought our defense was really strong for the majority of the game. We were in the right positions, we guarded the ball hard and we rebounded the ball pretty well most of the game. A lot of people were glued in, executed the defensive game plan despite some changes over time, and really valued living into that type of identity of being a tough-minded, gritty, disciplined type of defensive team.”

Along with Cohen’s 25 points, junior Marques Wilson scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting (including 2-of-3 from 3-point range), his fourth straight game with double-figure points. Freshmen Evan Taylor and Reed Fenton each scored 14 points, with Taylor grabbing a career-high eight rebounds.

“Offensively, we got some great individual performances, but a lot of came from sharing the ball,” said Reed. “We had some beautiful possessions where the ball moved to multiple places and we were able to take advantage, whether it was an open shot or hard drive and finish at the rim.”

Lehigh’s 82 points marked its second-highest total for the season (and highest against a Division I opponent).

The Mountain Hawks jumped out to a quick 12-2 lead, with Cohen scoring six of the early goings. A Cohen steal and fastbreak layup gave Lehigh the early 10-point advantage, forcing an American timeout with 15:19 left in the first half.

“Jordan was fantastic,” said Reed. “I love watching Jordan Cohen play when he’s playing like that. He was confident and he was assertive. He’s the type of guy who can have those types of performance bursts within a game and lead a charge. He wasn’t by himself, but I’m so pleased he could step forward.”

Lehigh’s lead reached 15-2 after a Marques Wilson trey, but American chipped away as the first half progressed. The Mountain Hawks’ lead fluctuated between five and 13 until late in the stanza when the Eagles scored seven straight points to pull within 34-32 in the final minute. However, Fenton knocked down a 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining to give Lehigh a 37-32 halftime advantage.

The Mountain Hawks scored the first four second-half points, but American staged a 7-0 run in the span of 1:11 to pull within two at 41-39.

Lehigh immediately answered with a 12-0 run, eight of the points scored by Taylor. A Marques Wilson basket capped off the run to give the Mountain Hawks a 53-39 edge with 12:22 on the second-half clock.

From there, American couldn’t pull any closer than seven the rest of the way – and that came with just over a minute remaining. Lehigh’s lead swelled to as much as 15 after two Taylor free throws made the score 63-48 with 5:45 remaining. The Eagles fouled until 11 seconds remained, but the Mountain Hawks finished the game 22-of-26 from the charity stripe to help wrap up the victory.

After shooting 59.3 percent in the first half, the Mountain Hawks finished at 53.8 percent for the game (28-of-52), including 40.0 percent from 3-point range (4-of-10). American finished at 37.5 percent (27-of-72) and 29.0 percent from long distance (9-of-31). The Mountain Hawks held a 41-33 edge in rebounds.

Lehigh remains home on Wednesday to host Navy. Opening tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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