WEST POINT, N.Y. – Five players finished with double figures as the Mountain Hawks took a 22-point first-half lead and held off a second-half Army charge, 85-76 on Sunday afternoon. Junior Mackey McKnight led the way with 21 points while senior Gabe Knutson posted 18 and junior Anthony D’Orazio had 15. Lehigh has now won eight of its last nine road games, improving to 16-5 overall and 6-1 in Patriot League play.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to play with a lead,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Credit our team for building a lead. Army has been pretty potent on offense, so we knew they’d get opportunities. They got big second halves from [Kyle] Toth and [Ella] Ellis. Those guys stepped up and made shots and made plays.
“We ended up losing some momentum, but regaining it,” Reed continued. “I was pleased with how we were able to close out the game.”
Knutson’s 18 points were his most since Dec. 20 at North Texas (10 games ago) when he had 28. The Urbandale, Iowa native finished 7-of-13 from the floor on Sunday.
Thirteen of D’Orazio’s 15 came in the first half while he also grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds for his first-career double-double. He added five assists. McKnight was stellar all game, finishing 6-of-9 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line while dishing five assists as well. Senior Holden Greiner and junior B.J. Bailey got to double figures with big baskets late in the game, posting 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Lehigh got off to a hot start, hitting 13 of its first 16 shots, including five of its first seven three-pointers.
Army, who started five freshmen, was led by 20 points from Kyle Toth while senior Ella Ellis posted 14, Kyle Wilson had 12 and Larry Toomey 11.
Lehigh got off to a quick start, taking a six-point lead in the early going. After a McKnight driving layup, D’Orazio made a steal on the defensive end and was rewarded with a fastbreak layup for an 8-2 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Army answered with five straight points behind a Wilson three and Cartavious Kincade layup to pull within 8-7 with 15:58 on the clock. But Lehigh had an answer coming out of the first media timeout on an 8-0 run (four consecutive from McKnight then four straight from freshman Justin Goldsborough) to make it 16-7.
Back-to-back threes from McKnight and D’Orazio gave Lehigh its first double-digit lead at 22-11 with 12:02 to go. Wilson answered with a layup, but Greiner knocked down the Mountain Hawks’ third straight three-pointer to make it 25-13. Two more D’Orazio treys made it 31-15 with 10:34 on the clock, Lehigh’s fourth and fifth treys in as many possessions, all within a two-minute span.
Up 36-23, Lehigh staged an 8-0 run as Knutson began to heat up. McKnight knocked down a pair from the charity stripe to make it 44-23 with 2:41 on the clock then two Knutson free throws made it 47-25 (Lehigh’s largest lead of the game). However, the Black Knights responded with a 6-0 run to pull within 47-31 at the half.
Three Mountain Hawks posted double-figure points in the first half, led by 13 from D’Orazio and McKnight along with 10 from Knutson. Lehigh finished the half shooting 62 percent (18-of-29) and 56 percent from long range (5-of-9) while Army was 36 percent (10-of-28) and 31 percent from long distance (4-of-13).
Knutson continued his momentum into the second half, scoring four of Lehigh’s first six points, but Army wouldn’t go away. An Ellis three-pointer pulled the Black Knights within 12 (51-39) with 16:32 on the clock, the closest they had been since midway through the first half.
A Toth three-pointer, his fifth point in less than a minute, pulled Army within nine (56-47) with 14:11 to play. Just 32 seconds later, the Army bench was called for a technical foul which sparked the Mountain Hawks on a mini 7-0 run. After McKnight knocked down both free throws, sophomore Corey Schaefer hit a three off a McKnight feed then McKnight finished a fastbreak layup to make it 63-47 with 12:21 on the clock.
The Black Knights answered right back with a 7-0 run of their own as an Ellis three from the top of the key made it 63-56 with 9:58 to play.
Knutson scored on consecutive possessions, including a big dunk off a D’Orazio feed, but the Black Knights responded. Army pulled as close as 68-63 after a Jordan Springer jumper, but a Bailey free throw and Greiner jumper put Lehigh back up eight (73-65) at the final media timeout.
Bailey grabbed a big rebound and hit a free throw with 2:05 to go, then after a Toth three, he knocked down a long jumper to give Lehigh a 76-69 lead with 1:26 on the clock.
The Mountain Hawks went on to hit seven of their final eight free throws to close out the nine-point victory.
Lehigh finished at 54 percent from the field (30-of-56), including 44 percent from three-point range (7-of-16). Army shot 42 percent (25-of-60) and 32 percent from long range (10-of-31). The Black Knights won the battle of the boards, 37-28.
Lehigh begins the second round of Patriot League play Saturday at Holy Cross. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. The Mountain Hawks return home on Wednesday, Feb. 13 against American at 7 p.m.
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