Courtesy of LehighSports.com
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lafayette staged a 16-2 run spanning the end of the first half and beginning of the second to turn a two-point margin into 16, as the Leopards went on to down the Lehigh men’s basketball team, 74-56 Saturday in Stabler Arena on Diversity and Inclusion Day presented by Lehigh University’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. The Mountain Hawks’ loss snapped their eight-game winning streak vs. Lafayette. A pair of sophomores led Lehigh’s offense, as Nic Lynch scored 13 points and Jeameril Wilson added 11.
“I thought our guys showed some pretty good fight, particularly in the first half,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We were on the game plan. We had a small stretch where Lafayette knocked down a couple shots. With one of them, we tried to reach in for a steal. It was an aggressive play, we kicked it out and they ended up getting a shot. We had enough that we could build on in the first half.
“But the beginning of the second half absolutely destroyed us,” Reed continued. “We had to call an immediate timeout. We wanted to cut that lead so badly in the first possession, almost like a five-point play, that when we missed a shot, we weren’t back on defense. We know Lafayette is a combustible, transition team, but the floor was not set the way it needed to. When we were in the half court, a lot of the principles and things we were doing with pressure fell back and they were very comfortable. When Lafayette is comfortable, they are very good.”
Lynch and Wilson both shot 5-of-8 from the field. Freshmen Reed Fenton, Jake Betlow and Jakob Alamudun each scored eight points apiece. Senior Jordan Cohen had just two points on 1-of-8 shooting, but dished a game-high six assists.
A tight start opened up a bit, with Lafayette taking a 12-5 advantage just over five minutes in. The Mountain Hawks responded with six straight points, the final four scored by Alamudun, to pull within 12-11 with 11:10 left in the first half.
The Leopards would go on to reopen a seven-point advantage on multiple occasions (18-11, 20-13 and 27-20), but the Mountain Hawks continually cut into the deficit. Five straight Lehigh points, capped off by a Fenton 3-pointer, pulled Lehigh within 27-25 with 1:54 left in the first.
However, that’s as close as the Mountain Hawks would come the rest of the game. Lafayette ended the half with six straight points. Then, after Wilson scored 16 seconds into the second, the Leopards responded with a 10-0 run to take a 43-27 advantage following a Lukas Jarrett 3-point play with 15:58 on the clock.
Lafayette’s lead eclipsed 20 around the middle stages of the second half. The Mountain Hawks did outscore the Leopards 14-7 down the stretch, with five points scored by Lynch and four by Alamudun, to pull within 74-56 at the final horn.
“We are where we are and it’s unfortunate,” said Reed. “We’ve shown some streaks and the ability to play the way in which we need to. In the first half, we gave up 33 points to Lafayette, a team that generally can score it. Our offense wasn’t great – I recognize that – but in the second half, we basically gave up 32 points in the first 12 minutes. There’s a bit of a gut check with that.
For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot 39.3 percent from the field (22-of-56), including 27.8 percent from 3-point range (5-of-18). Lafayette finished at 50.0 percent (28-of-56) and 39.3 percent from long distance (11-of-23). The Leopards held a 32-30 edge in rebounds.
“Being with this team, they played an incredibly strong nonleague schedule and couldn’t really see a great light of day,” Reed continued. “They stayed the course, but they need that almost groundswell of confidence that these things can work for them and if they can see it can work, confidence can develop.
“Right now, our guys can’t feel sorry for themselves,” Reed continued. “We have no choice. We have to turn around and play. It’s going to take leadership, it’s going to take individual resolve and it’s going to take some great energy plays for us to move forward.”
The Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity was created with the hiring of the inaugural Vice President for Equity & Community in February of 2017. The office is responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to enhance and build on Lehigh’s efforts to advance its commitment to a more diverse and inclusive campus. This is done through strategic planning, training, education and research, community relations, policy development and communications. The office coordinates with all University assets, including students, staff, senior administrators, deans, department heads, trustees and local community leaders and groups. The division is comprised of our University advocacy centers (the Center for Gender Equity, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Pride Center for Sexual Orientation & Gender Diversity, and the Chaplain’s Office), Student Access and Success, and a Multicultural Community Liaison. Please visit https://diversity.lehigh.
Following Saturday’s game, Lehigh has a quick turnaround when it travels to our nation’s capital for a Monday night showdown at American. Opening tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.