Courtesy of LehighSports.com
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team opened an 18-point first-half lead, Navy made an early second-half charge to pull as close as four, but the Mountain Hawks (15-11, 9-6 Patriot League) responded in a big way, opening a 22-point lead on their way to a 74-55 win on Wednesday evening in Stabler Arena. Five Mountain Hawks recorded double-figure points, led by senior Austin Price with 19.
“I told our guys, it’s all about defensive discipline,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Guys were in the right spots, they were communicating, we weren’t giving Navy a lot of easy opportunities and they really had to earn it. It was terrific that Tim (Kempton) could also clean up the possession and hold them to one shots. Even though we were in the right spots and really getting our chests in front of them and playing very good fundamental defense, they were flying hard at that offensive glass and Tim helped us finish those possessions, which was really key.”
Price’s 19 points came on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range. He scored 15 of his points in the second half, and made an impact in a variety of other ways, too.
“When we start talking about our defense establishing itself, Austin slides right over and gives his body up, taking a charge early in the game,” said Reed. “He made deflections and was in the right spots. He made three cuts in the first half that opened up tremendous offense for us. A back door cut for Kyle Leufroy opened up because Austin made a cut. Another time, Austin made a cut and Tim Kempton drove down the lane with his left hand, because Austin was willing to make that type of selfless play.”
Freshman Pat Andree, sophomore Kyle Leufroy and senior Tim Kempton each scored 12 points while junior Brandon Alston had 10 on 4-of-5 shooting. Lehigh shot 57.4 percent from the field, including 52.6 percent from three-point range.
“Distribution was really important,” said Reed. “Every time that we made a run or had to answer the call, it wasn’t just one guy. One time it was Matt Holba. Another time it was Pat Andree. Another time it was Austin Price. We had a variety of different guys who stepped up.”
With the win, Lehigh remains in sole possession of fourth place in the Patriot League standings, one game behind Navy in third and two behind Boston University in second with three regular season games remaining.
Lehigh scored the game’s first five points until Navy’s Tim Abruzzo knocked down a three-pointer with 15:32 on the first-half clock. Alston was hot in the early going, scoring seven of Lehigh’s first 10 points as his jumper helped the Mountain Hawks regain a 10-3 lead with 14:15 remaining in the first.
The Mountain Hawks opened a 10-point, 16-6 lead following a pair of Kempton free throws, Navy responded with four straight points, but Lehigh used a 9-0 run to turn a 23-14 Mountain Hawk advantage into a 32-14 lead following an Andree three-pointer with 4:47 on the clock.
Navy ended the half by scoring five of the last six points as a Shawn Anderson trey pulled the Midshipmen within 35-23 at the half.
Navy began the second half on an 11-3 run as a Hasan Abdullah three-pointer pulled the Mids within 38-34 with 15:37 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks answered in a big way, posting a 20-2 run, which included four three-pointers, two by Andree. Eventually a layup from Alston gave Lehigh a 58-36 lead with 8:23 on the clock.
Navy slowly inched closer as a George Kiernan trey pulled the Midshipmen within 62-48 while an Abruzzo trey pulled Navy within 63-51 with 3:25 on the clock.
Lehigh answered, going back up by 19 following Price’s third trey of the game as the Mountain Hawks wrapped up the 74-55 victory.
For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot 57.4 percent from the field (27-of-47), including 52.6 percent from three-point range (10-of-19). Navy finished 39.7 percent from the field (23-of-58) and 31.6 percent from long distance (6-of-19). The Mountain Hawks held a 28-27 edge in rebounds.
The Mountain Hawks now head to archrival Lafayette on Sunday for their final road game of the regular season. Opening tipoff is set for 12 p.m.