Lehigh guard Lance Tejada dribbles during the first half of the Mountain Hawk's 80-72 loss to the Monmouth Hawks on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at Stabler Arena. Tejada transferred to Lehigh in 2016 after playing two seasons at East Carolina University. (Sarah Epstein/B&W Staff)

Sluggish start burns Lehigh in 80-72 loss in home opener vs. Monmouth

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The Lehigh men’s basketball team was off to a slow start in its home opener against Monmouth University, taking nearly three minutes to get on the board.

Soon after, the Mountain Hawks gained the lead with a three-pointer, and the team responded with energy, taking off on an unanswered 10-point run.

But then the Mountain Hawks’ momentum began to slow. As they went into the second half only down by 33-28, Lehigh coach Brett Reed thought the team had an opportunity to take the lead back.

“Only being down 5 points, shooting as poorly as we did, we were in a golden position to be able to capitalize on scoring a little better in the second half,” Reed said. “Then, unfortunately, we weren’t able to hold as strong in our defensive effort in the last 20 minutes.”

Lehigh was never able to regain the lead and fell to Monmouth 80-72 at Stabler Arena Tuesday night.

The Mountain Hawks (1-1) found trouble across the court against Monmouth (2-1), making only half of their free throws and 27.6 percent of shots from the three-point line. They were out-rebounded 53-24.

Lehigh coach Brett Reed said the team couldn’t find rhythm on the court.

“We played an uncharacteristic — or what I believe will be an uncharacteristic offensive game,” Reed said.

In just the second game of the season, the Mountain Hawks are still adjusting as some players fill the holes created by the graduation of Tim Kempton and Austin Price. Reed found this made facing a confident team like Monmouth to be difficult.

“With a young team and people filling new roles, I don’t know if we were as prepared to weather a storm like that as we’re trying to build our identity,” Reed said.

Sophomore guard Jordan Cohen is one of those young players stepping up this season. Cohen led the team in scoring against Monmouth 18 points. He said his teammate’s encouragement helped him play more aggressive, but he felt he let the team down defensively.

Senior guard Kahron Ross scored his 1,000th career point on a free throw in the second half — a possibility he said he wasn’t aware of when he stepped up to the line. He also had a career-high six steals, trying to stay aggressive to energize his teammates.

“We’re smaller this year so me and (Cohen) have to pressure the ball, and that’s kind of what I was doing for about half the game,” Ross said. “I was just trying to keep the energy up and stay aggressive.”

Ross believes working on defense and rebounding will help the team compete better. Reed also sees an increase in the team’s perimeter depth that the could benefit them this season.

“I think if we want to succeed, we need to bring a ton of energy and just pressure up,” Cohen said.

The Mountain Hawks will take on Siena College at home Friday night at 7 p.m.

 

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Lehigh guard Lance Tejada dribbles during the first half of the Mountain Hawk's 80-72 loss to the Monmouth Hawks on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at Stabler Arena. Tejada transferred to Lehigh in 2016 after playing two seasons at East Carolina University. (Sarah Epstein/B&W Staff)

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