Preseason polls immediately ruled out Lehigh’s men’s basketball team from having a shot at winning the Patriot League this year, predicting it would finish in seventh place out of 10. But just over a week into the spring semester, Lehigh currently carries a 10-10 record.
The Patriot League is shaping up to be a race to the finish with no team dominating so far. This gives Lehigh the opportunity to continue to contend for the top.
There is no “winter break” in basketball, and Lehigh’s team had games all throughout the end of December and the beginning of January, with small breaks for finals and Christmas. More than halfway through the season, Lehigh is tied for fifth in the Patriot League with a 4-5 record in the conference.
The season has been a series of runs, just like a game might be. The Mountain Hawks began winter break with a loss at Quinnipiac University.
“Over winter break we started off a little bit slower than we wanted to,” sophomore guard Miles Simelton said.
Coach Brett Reed challenged the team after this game to come together and do some soul searching, and they did just that. Lehigh traveled to Tempe, Arizona for its next game and defeated Arizona State University in triple overtime, a huge win over a team in the PAC 12 conference.
The win was even more important to the team because it was a homecoming game for sophomore forward/center Tim Kempton, who played high school basketball in that area.
“Being able to play in front of my friends and family, and just the atmosphere that that game had, between everyone being there and the team being in my hometown, it was a great experience and something I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life,” Kempton said.
The team then had a week off before facing UMBC away, which was another win, and the last game before the Patriot League stretch began. Unfortunately for the team, it didn’t start out the way they wanted.
Kempton said they may have been a little too confident after beating Arizona State.
“We kind of eased off the gas pedal and dropped a few games we shouldn’t have dropped,” he said.
They lost to both Colgate University and Boston University, starting out 0-2 in the conference.
“We had a rough start in both of those games, and we got outplayed both games, so that was pretty rough for us,” sophomore guard Austin Price said.
Once again, Reed challenged them after these losses to come together and get back on track, and they began to turn it around with a win against Army in its next game.
“We played a tough Army team, and we were able to come out with a win away, so that was a really big win for us to get it kind of going, and we started our stride a little bit then,” Simelton said.
After dropping another two league games to Loyola University (Maryland) and American University, the team won three straight games, including one over rival Lafayette College. After that, they suffered a disappointing loss to Bucknell University, the team currently on top of the standings with a 7-2 conference record.
“When we win the first four minutes of the first half, the first four minutes of the second half, and then we end up closing the game in the last four minutes, those are the games where we played the best and had the best competition and the best results during the season,” Kempton said.
The team still has nine games remaining in the season, all of which are in the Patriot League. Lehigh’s next game will be at 2 p.m. on Jan. 31 at home against Boston University.