The Mountain Hawks (0-2, 0-0) needed a shot of adrenaline Tuesday night, but nobody in brown and white had a needle to spare.
Coming off an inspired effort versus Villanova University last Friday night at the PPL Center in Allentown, the Hawks came out flat against Canisius College (2-0), falling to the Griffs by a score of 63-51 Nov. 18.
Perhaps it was the fact that they played in front of nearly 8,000 more people in their opening game against the Wildcats, as the Hawks put few plays together that they were proud of on their home floor in front of the 711 people in attendance.
Lehigh struggled early in the half court, despite bypassing the Griffs’ full-court press. Between a myriad of missed layups and blown opportunities in the paint, the Hawks were down 10-3 with 14:20 to go in the first half. Lehigh dug itself into a hole of mental frustration after an abysmal 1-11 from the field in the first nine minutes until freshman guard Brandon Alston gave the team some life.
Finishing with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, the Vienna, Virginia, native showed the Bethlehem faithful his skill set after playing just five minutes against Villanova.
“I was just looking at this game to not only show what I can do, but to help my team win – not just scoring, but passing, as well,” Alston said. “When we see the pressure, we’ve got to embrace it.”
Lehigh head coach Brett Reed commended the freshman for coming in off the bench and making an immediate offensive contribution.
“Brandon provided us with an offensive spark when baskets were hard to come by,” Reed said. “He was solid in the open floor with his finishing, and his point production was critical try to give us at least a foundation for us to build on.”
Key word: Try. Despite inspiring minutes from Alston and junior forward Justin Goldsborough, nobody could inject the adrenaline into the squad for a full 40 minutes.
“I thought our energy level was on display during our first game,” Reed said. “However, this game, we did not come with the same type of energy, and we did not come with the same type of mental focus, as evidenced by our unforced errors and missed opportunities to convert from the free-throw line and in the paint.”
Committing 23 turnovers against Villanova in the Hawks’ opener, the team still struggled taking care of the ball against the Griffs. Racking up 20 turnovers on Tuesday night, the Hawks’ offensive futility fueled their 32.7 percent (18-55) shooting percentage from the field.
The lone offensive bright spot was sophomore center Tim Kempton, who, after the game, was compared to somebody very special to him: his father.
Canisius head coach Jim Baron was on the Notre Dame staff in the mid 1980s where Kempton’s dad, Tim Kempton Sr., recorded a stellar career as a member of the Fighting Irish.
After the younger Kempton’s 19 points and seven rebounds against the Griffs, Baron couldn’t help but notice similarities between the two generations.
“There a lot of similarities,” Baron said. “Tim (Sr.) was a great player, great leader and terrific young man. His son is on the par of his father, and he’s only a sophomore. I’m real impressed with his size and his ability to go inside out.”
Tim Kempton Sr. went on to play eight NBA seasons, so any comparison from his game to his son’s goes a long way for the younger Kempton.
“Its awesome,” Kempton said. “Having my dad as my mentor and having my dad as basically my backyard trainer – its means a lot when people mention me with similarities to my dad. My dad had a great career in the NBA and overseas, so being called similar to him is the greatest thing in the world.”
With the help of the younger Kempton, the Hawks rallied to trail Canisius just 54-51 with 1:32 left in regulation. However, on the ensuing offensive possession for the Griffs, game-high scorer Zach Lewis (24 points) buried an NBA-three to seal the game for the squad from Buffalo.
The Hawks will travel to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, to take on Rider University (1-1) on Friday and will then return to Stabler Arena on Sunday to host Columbia University (1-1) at 2 p.m.