Courtesy of LehighSports.com
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team opened a 16-point second-half lead, Boston University came back to force overtime, but the Mountain Hawks (20-11) made some clutch plays when it mattered most to pick up a gutsy 91-88 double overtime win in the Patriot League Semifinals on Sunday afternoon. With the win, Lehigh advances to its second straight Patriot League Championship Game and fourth in the last eight years.
The Mountain Hawks will travel to top-seeded Bucknell on Wednesday evening for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff on CBS Sports Network. Senior Tim Kempton finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high tying six blocks, eclipsing 2,000 career points in the process.
“It was a phenomenal game,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Give Boston University a ton of credit. They fought all the way through the season and they fought all the way throughout this game. I thought we started the game with great energy, but they didn’t quit. They made some plays towards the end of the second half and forced overtime. Then the roles were reversed; we didn’t quit. Despite foul difficulty, despite challenges and despite everything, our guys continued to believe and pulled together enough to walk away with a win.”
Lehigh led by 11 at the half, Boston University began the second half on a 7-0 run, but the Mountain Hawks responded to take a 16-point lead. The Terriers shot 50 percent in the second half to help force overtime. In the end, Lehigh made big plays to extend its winning streak to a season-high six games.
Senior Austin Price was also sensational, finishing with 23 points, four rebounds and three steals. Junior Brandon Alston tied a career-high 18 points while sophomore Kyle Leufroy scored 12. The story of the game was Lehigh’s defense, which tallied 12 steals and a season-high eight blocks.
Kempton’s double-double was his eighth in the last nine games, 20th of the season and 53rd of his career. With a second-half three-pointer, he became just the third player in school history to reach 2,000 career points. He’s one of just two in Patriot League history to eclipse 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
“I’m very happy for Tim to be able to play in what will be a championship game, to give him a chance to hopefully cement a little bit more of his legacy,” said Reed. “Tim has been a dominant player; he’s scored the ball for us and he’s rebounded for us. When he’s been committed to our team winning and our team has been committed to winning, it’s not about the individual accolades. What happens in the championship game remains to be seen. The kid brought it today and despite having some plays that didn’t go his way, we were able to keep our head.”
Lehigh opened an early 9-3 lead following a Kempton jumper. Leading 13-10, two straight three-pointers, from Kempton and freshman Pat Andree, gave the Mountain Hawks a 19-10 advantage with 11:03 on the first-half clock. The lead reached 11 as a Leufroy four-point play gave Lehigh a 23-12 advantage with 7:54 remaining in the first.
The Terriers immediately answered with a 7-0 run to pull back within four. Lehigh had an answer late in the half, scoring seven of the final nine points as Price’s second dunk in the span of 2:02 gave the Mountain Hawks a 37-26 lead at the half.
Boston University scored the first seven second-half points, but Lehigh immediately answered with a 7-0 run of its own, all scored by Kempton. His jumper gave the Mountain Hawks a 44-33 advantage with 15:30 on the clock.
Lehigh used a 9-0 surge to open its largest lead of the game as a deep three-pointer from Price gave his team a 53-37 advantage with 10:41 remaining in the second half. However, Boston University answered with a 14-2 run as a Fanning layup cut Lehigh’s lead to 55-51 with 4:51 on the clock.
The Mountain Hawks continued to lead until the final seconds as a Justin Alston layup evened the score at 65. Lehigh had a chance to win in regulation, but Kempton’s jumper was off the mark.
The teams went back-and-forth in the first overtime. Cedric Hankerson knocked down a three-pointer just 13 seconds in, but four straight Kempton free throws helped Lehigh regain the lead. Late in the stanza, a Kempton layup off a nifty feed from Leufroy evened the score at 75 with six seconds on the clock, then Kempton blocked the Terriers’ ensuing chance to help force a second overtime period.
Tied with less than two minutes remaining in the second overtime, Kempton hit a big corner three-pointer, his third of the game, to give Lehigh an 85-82 lead. Then, Leufroy followed with four straight free throws for an 89-82 advantage. Boston University knocked down two late threes and had a chance in the final seconds, but it fell short and the Mountain Hawks picked up the thrilling victory.
For the game, Lehigh shot 41 percent from the field (29-of-70), including 33 percent from three-point range (9-of-27). Boston University finished at 38 percent (30-of-79) and 38 percent from long distance (11-of-29). The Terriers held a 50-44 edge in rebounds.
The Mountain Hawks are now set to travel to No. 1 seed Bucknell in the Patriot League Championship Game on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.