Game info: The Lehigh women’s basketball team (15-14, 9-9 PL) hosts Army West Point (16-13, 9-9 PL) at Stabler Arena on Monday night for the Patriot League quarterfinals. The game is set to tip off at 6 p.m.
Lehigh’s previous game: The Mountain Hawks broke their two-game winning streak with a 65-62 home loss against Holy Cross for Senior Night on Wednesday, concluding their regular season. Sophomore forward Gena Grundhoffer led the team in scoring with 24 points. Senior guard Bernadette Devaney also scored in double digits with 16 points. Holy Cross held Lehigh 38.5 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from long distance. Lehigh, however, shot a perfect 11-for-11 from the charity stripe. An Army loss to Bucknell University on Wednesday handed the Mountain Hawks the No. 4 seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
Last Lehigh vs. Army matchup: Lehigh fell at Army in a 55-50 loss Feb. 17, splitting the season matchups 1-1 against the team. It was the last loss for the Mountain Hawks in their four game losing streak. Three players posted double digits, including senior guard Quinci Mann with 17, Devaney with 11 and sophomore guard Camryn Buhr with 10. Army held Lehigh 43.8 percent from the field and 16.7 from long distance. This year’s Patriot League quarterfinal contest will be a rematch of the 2015-16 season’s semifinals, which Lehigh lost 76-46 to end its season.
Inside the numbers: The Mountain Hawks sit second in the league in 3-point percentage at 33.7. Lehigh enters the contest as the fifth best Patriot League scoring team, averaging 61.6 points per game. Mann is No. 8 in the league in scoring, averaging 13.7 points a game with 410 total points for the season. Buhr follows at No. 11, averaging 12.5 points per game with 375 points on the season. The team is also fifth in free throw shooting at 70.7 percent. The Mountain Hawks had two All-Patriot League honorees this season. Mann landed a spot on the second team All-Patriot League and Buhr secured a spot on the third team. Mann leads the team in scoring and Buhr sits in second.
Keys to the game:
1. How important is a first round bye in the tournament and a home court advantage for the quarterfinal game?
The Mountain Hawks have a history of performing well on their home court, with a 10-4 home record to back them up. Heading into the Patriot League Tournament with a few extra days to prepare for the quarterfinal game, Lehigh will already have a home court advantage in its corner.
“We are always more comfortable at home,” Mann said. “Home court advantage across the league is just huge, so to have that is definitely something on our side.”
Coach Sue Troyan said with the team’s long season, having a few extra days of rest that come with earning a first round bye in the tournament is invaluable.
Given that the season is so long, Buhr said the team is working on re-focusing and re-energizing going into the tournament. Mann said the Mountain Hawks are treating the postseason with a clean slate, as if the team is 0-0.
“Everyone is 0-0,” Buhr said. “The record doesn’t matter. Essentially, everyone is even. I think at this point, every team knows what you can do and what you’re capable of — you’re scouted really well — so it’s just about adding a couple little wrinkles to what we’re doing so we can be a little bit more unpredictable.”
2. How are the Mountain Hawks mentally approaching the game against Army?
The team is preparing for a battle on Monday night.
Troyan said while Army isn’t necessarily the most technical team, Lehigh is preparing for the tough defending and grit that its opponent brings every game.
“They’re a team where you know it’s going to be super physical,” Troyan said. “They’re trained that way just with mental toughness and physical style-of-play.”
Troyan said the key to beating Army will be executing down the stretch by converting shots and rebounding offensively and defensively while defending with grit.
Buhr said the winning strategy is simple.
“We need to out-tough them,” Buhr said. “That’s what Army is — they’re tough. They’re not necessarily the most skilled team, but if we out-tough them and do what we can do, we’re going to be fine.”
3. Can the Mountain Hawks compete for a Patriot League Championship title this year?
The Mountain Hawks have improved exponentially since being knocked out of last season’s tournament in the first round.
Buhr said this year is different because the league is much more competitive and fluid.
“I think we just know we need to come out to play no matter who we’re playing,” Buhr said. “We’ve beaten the best team in the league and lost to the worst team. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day.”
Troyan said she believes there are six different teams that have a shot at winning the Patriot League Championship game this season. She counts Lehigh as one of those teams.
“I think this is a team that is capable of winning a championship,” Troyan said. “For the (Mountain Hawks), it’s trying to go into each game with a sense of confidence that they’re well-prepared and confident in what they’re doing and that they trust one another that they can do it together.”
Since the beginning of the season, Mann said the Mountain Hawks’ goal has been to show the rest of the league how good they are and represent Lehigh basketball with pride.
Implications of the game: With a victory at home Monday, the Mountain Hawks will advance to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals. They will play the winner of the American University vs. Lafayette College quarterfinal game. Lehigh lost its pair of regular season contests to American but won both games against Lafayette.