There was no stopping the Lehigh women’s basketball as soon as the whistle blew to start the second half Wednesday at Stabler Arena.
Among the cheers of thousands of kids from around the area, the Mountain Hawks used a dominant second half to grab their sixth victory in front of a crowd of 4,009 fans on Education Day, cruising to a 64-50 win over NJIT.
The crowd played a major role in Wednesday’s matinee, especially the multitudes of students that came from local elementary, middle school and high schools, giving the Mountain Hawks a home-court advantage.
The Mountain Hawks (6-4) built a 19-point lead against a winless NJIT team that had no hope of cutting down the lead Lehigh had built up, as Lehigh shut down an offense that played with confidence in the first half, scoring 31 points to Lehigh’s 33. Once the second half began, the momentum swung and Lehigh picked up its defensive play.
“We’ve been able acknowledge our mistakes and flip a switch and come in and almost turn the dial up intensity wise,” senior guard Bernadette Devaney said, “Quite honestly, we’re tired of hearing from coaches too that were not putting effort out so that was our goal to go on the floor and put everything out there so we could turn it around.”
The whole game wasn’t as clean as could be, as NJIT had an 11-3 turnover margin going into halftime, and only trailed by two, making the game look much closer than it actually was. Coach Sue Troyan emphasized that it’s been the story all year for the Mountain Hawks. They’re a team that makes mistakes in the first half and looks lost but returns in the second half in dominant fashion, and in today’s case, not giving up the lead for the entire second half.
“We executed our stuff and took care of the ball,” coach Sue Troyan said, “We got good shots and distributed the ball well, it was just the inconsistencies in doing that for 40 minutes, like I said too many turnovers and lackadaisical with the basketball and I think that’s the frustrating thing for me.”
The team rallied behind senior guards Quinci Mann and Bernadette Devaney, as they came into the second half attacking, scoring 13 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter to pull firmly ahead of NJIT. Mann shot 6-for-11 from the field while Devaney added eight points as both once again showed their ability to lead the team to victory.
Lehigh managed to shut down the NJIT offense In the second half and eventually built an insurmountable 19-point lead. NJIT only tallied nine field goals.
“Our assistant coach Rigney said “They think they’re winning, prove to them they’re not.” and the second half wasn’t our best basketball,” junior forward Meagn Eripret said. “I think we stepped it up in terms of energy and effort and that makes up for a lot of the missed shots and turnovers.”
The crowd was eating up every second of it, and as senior guard Quinci Mann made her prototypical big plays in tight spots, the roar became defining and the stands shook with excitement. There was never any lull in energy as the Mountain Hawks made sure that NJIT was always on its toes.
“We came out a little slow, and we’ve kind of gotten into a funk where we do that and we’re working really hard to get away from that, and in the second half we just had to take a minute and collect ourselves and talk about all the things that we thought were going wrong,” Eripret said, “The coaches said they really need us to step up and prove we were the better team because we knew we were and that we needed to get it done.”
Coming off wins in its last two games, Lehigh heads to Barclays Center on Sunday to play LIU Brooklyn, a matchup where the team hopes to fix the first half funk it’s been in.
“One of our mottos is be quick but don’t hurry,” Eripret said, “so we want to make the right decisions and the smart decisions and we want to make them quick enough where were keeping the pace up, but we don’t want to go so fast where were throwing it up over someone’s head or throwing it out of bounds so its focusing and having our minds right to play because obviously no one wants to turn the ball over, were ust so fast that we get ahead of ourselves sometimes.”
Following LIU Brooklyn, the Mountain Hawks will welcome Lafayette to Stabler Arena on Dec. 29 to open up Patriot League play.