Lehigh handed another tough defeat, 65-63 to American

Photo by Justin Lafleur/Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics
Photo by Justin Lafleur/Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics

Courtesy of LehighSports.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Trailing by 16 late in the first half, the Lehigh men’s basketball team rallied to take multiple second-half leads, but American came back to down the Mountain Hawks 65-63 on Wednesday evening in Stabler Arena. Senior Mackey McKnight just missed a triple-double, posting 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t enough. Lehigh has played six straight games that have gone down to the wire, losing four in a row in heartbreaking fashion. The Mountain Hawks fall to 1-4 in Patriot League play while the Eagles remain in first place with a 5-0 league mark.

“The story of the game was being down 16 points with seven minutes left in the first half,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “The kids showed some resiliency to get back into the game and into a situation where we’d have a chance to be competitive. Jesse Reed makes two nice shots. If they miss, potentially we’d have a chance. But when you build yourself such a deficit, it requires near perfection. We certainly weren’t perfect, but still had an opportunity to pull away with a victory.”

McKnight shot 7-of-15 from the field and 4-of-10 from three-point range. The double-double marked the third of the season (and his his career).

“Mackey did a lot of nice things,” said Reed. “One of the problems was, I thought his first seven to eight minutes weren’t very strong, but he had a valiant effort afterwards. It was unfortunate we didn’t get that full production for 40 minutes from everybody. We need complimentary players to get their opportunities as well.”

Junior Corey Schaefer added 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a perfect 2-of-2 from three-point range. Sophomore Justin Goldsborough enjoyed his third straight strong game, posting seven points on 3-of-4 shooting while adding two blocks and a rebound.

Four Eagles players scored double-figure points, led by John Schoof who scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half.

Freshman Tim Kempton got the scoring started with an offensive rebound and putback to make it 2-0 with 18:21 left in the first half.

Jesse Reed knocked down a three just over a minute later to give American a 3-2 lead. The teams went back and forth until the Eagles used an 18-5 run to turn a 9-6 advantage into 27-11. Schoof was the story of the first half as his three with 6:41 on the clock forced a Lehigh timeout.

The Mountain Hawks responded by outscoring the Eagles 15-4 the rest of the half. The run began with a Kempton offensive rebound and putback, continuing with a McKnight three from the corner. After a Schoof trey, Lehigh scored 10 of the final 11 points. McKnight scored six of them as the Mountain Hawks pulled within 31-26 after 20 minutes of play.

Lehigh shot 36 percent from the field (9-of-25) and 22 percent from three-point range (2-of-9). American shot 43 percent (13-of-30) and 36 percent from long range (4-of-11). The Eagles held a 17-16 edge on the glass.

The Mountain Hawks extended the momentum from the end of the first half by scoring 13 of the first 19 second-half points. The teams traded points early in the second half until consecutive threes from Schaefer then McKnight tied the score at 39 with15:02 left in the second half.

Schoof answered with a trey, but a Schaefer fallaway then McKnight steal and three-point play gave Lehigh a 44-42 lead with12:47 on the clock. The seesaw continued as a Kyle Kager layup made it 48-46 American with 8:34 on the clock. McKnight answered with a trey just 28 seconds later, but another Schoof three gave the Eagles the lead back (51-49) with 7:42remaining.

Down four, Lehigh again answered with four in a row as a Goldsborough free throw and Schaefer three-pointer off a fast break tied the score at 55 with 4:04 on the clock.

A Goldsborough layup made it 57-57 with 2:23 remaining, but two straight Reed threes dug Lehigh a hole too large to overcome. An Austin Price trey with 33 seconds on the clock pulled the Mountain Hawks within three then a McKnight three-pointer made it 65-63, but Darius Gardner was fouled with one second remaining and Lehigh wasn’t able to get off a desperation heave at the buzzer.

Lehigh shot 40 percent from the field (22-of-55) and 38 percent from three-point range (9-of-24). American shot 46 percent (26-of-57) and 40 percent from long distance (8-of-20). The Eagles held a 36-32 edge on the glass.

“The number of close games that we’ve had that could go either way is almost mind boggling at this stage,” said Reed. “We’ve got to figure out a way to win and figure out a way to execute towards the end.”

The Mountain Hawks hit the road to face Holy Cross on Saturday at 4 p.m. Lehigh remains on the road next Wednesday (Jan. 22) at Navy before hosting Lafayette on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available online, including a print-at-home option, or by calling the ticket office at 610-7LU-GAME (610-758-4263). Individual game tickets are only five dollars (in advance) and season tickets are also available.

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