Guard Kahron Ross, '18, prepares to dodge past a Lafayette player at the Lehigh-Lafayette Basketball game at Stabler Arena on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. The Mountain Hawks lost to the Leopards 63-61. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

Hawks’ offense sputters as they fall to Leopards

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With just three games left in the season, the Lehigh men’s basketball team had more than a rivalry to worry about. The Hawks were playing for a top seed in the Patriot League tournament.

However, the Mountain Hawks hit a bump in this journey, losing 63-61 to Lafayette College on Sunday at Stabler Arena on Senior Day.

Following the results from the day’s Patriot League games, Lehigh still remains in third place in the conference with a 9-7 record. But its final two games are against the top two teams in the Patriot League standings, Bucknell University and Colgate University.

Coach Brett Reed said he isn’t too worried about the standings and that they’re going to just play one game at a time.

“We’ve come a long ways with our season,” Reed said. “We just want to be playing very good basketball, and we want to hopefully head into postseason play in an advantageous situation, as does any other team.”

Freshman guard Kahron Ross, who had 13 points and eight assists in the game, said they look at the standings and are aware of them, but that they don’t focus on it too much.

“We can’t worry about anybody else,” Ross said. “It all comes down to us winning. If we lose, then none of that matters.”

The game was back-and-forth, much like Lehigh’s entire season. After trailing by five points going into halftime, Lehigh pushed forward to a game-high seven-point lead just a few minutes into the second half. Lafayette eventually turned the game around and held a seven-point lead of its own with just under six minutes left. The Mountain Hawks were unable to get the lead back and ultimately lost.

After winning seven of eight games in a month span, Lehigh was 8-6 in the conference and contending for the top seed. But now, the Mountain Hawks have lost two of the last three games, putting them in a tougher situation.

Offensive production has been a big factor as far as whether or not Lehigh is able to pick up wins. After going four straight games scoring 65 points or more, including 103 against Army, the team has scored below 65 in its last three games.

Reed was aware of the team’s offensive struggles recently, saying they need to improve that aspect of the game down the stretch.

“I think one of the big keys for us is to continue to try to find a way to increase the tempo of our offense and the execution of our offense,” Reed said. “So that way, we don’t have to struggle to score as much as we have at small segments of tonight’s game.”

Sophomore forward Tim Kempton’s struggles in the first half had an impact on the team’s offensive performance. While he finished the game with 13 points, he shot just one of seven for two points in the first half.

Reed recognized Kempton’s first half difficulties, saying the game was very physical underneath.

“Tim did not get to great positions on the floor, and unfortunately he was inconsistent with his finishes,” Reed said. “Him starting 0-for-5 or 0-for-6 didn’t set the tone for us to get settled down and get us into an offensive flow the way we needed to.”

Kempton agreed with Reed, admitting that there were some struggles in the first half.

“By any means we did not play our best half or any type of good half,” Kempton said.

Because it was Senior Day, Reed decided to mix up the starting lineup and give the seniors a chance to start. All four seniors, guards Corey Schaefer and Stefan Cvrkalj and forwards Conroy Baltimore and Khalid McCaskill, made the start, although only Schaefer ended up playing significant minutes.

While Lehigh already has lost to both of its final two opponents, the margin of score was less than 10 both times, suggesting they won’t be impossible games to win.

With just two days off until its next game, Lehigh will play its final home game of the season when it hosts Bucknell on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

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