Freshman point guard Kahron Ross ran the show as the Lehigh men’s basketball team cruised to an 84-65 victory against league leaders Bucknell University on Wednesday night at Stabler Arena. The win also guarantees a home game in the quarterfinal round of the Patriot League Tournament.
In what was also the first ever LGBT Equality Game at Lehigh, the Mountain Hawks jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it. Ross, who was dynamic all game, finished with 17 points and 10 assists, one of which went to fellow guard Miles Simelton for a thunderous dunk that sent Stabler Arena into a frenzy.
Ross’ ability to create space for teammates and find his own shot, and Lehigh’s defense, helped the Mountain Hawks build their lead. As a freshman, Ross has won Patriot League Rookie of the Week award five times. Senior guard Stefan Cvrkalj has been impressed with Ross’ ability to fill the shoes that former Lehigh point guard Mackey McKnight left after he graduated a year ago.
“He’s done as well as anyone could have hoped, especially as a freshman,” Cvrkalj said. “Kahron’s maturity and court vision is great. He’s beginning to understand the college game more and more, and he’s learning how to control the pace of the game.”
Defensively, Lehigh set the tone early. Junior forward Justin Goldsborough was active on defense as he altered shots at the rim and rebounded relentlessly. Goldsborough also earned Lehigh some extra offensive possessions with his prowess on the offensive glass.
“Justin is a huge energy guy for us,” Cvrkalj said. “He rebounds so well and is a matchup nightmare for teams because he’s 6 feet 9 inches and athletic at the four.”
The rest of the Mountain Hawks followed Goldsborough’s lead as a quick barrage of scoring from sophomore guard Austin Price saw Lehigh jump out to a 13-5 lead early in the first half. Price finished the first half with a team-leading nine points. Junior forward Jesse Chuku, who shot the ball well all night, also provided an offensive punch for Lehigh, as he chipped in with eight points during the first half. He finished with 14 points off the bench for Lehigh.
The Mountain Hawks were able to extend their lead as they went into the break with a commanding 42-26 lead. But as the second half started, they continued to pour it on. More lively play from Goldsborough, along with the shooting of Chuku and overall play of Ross, saw the Hawks get out to a 24-point lead with just over 13 minutes left in the game. Offensively, the Hawks were clicking on all cylinders as Simelton and Chuku provided a much-needed impact off the bench. Simelton was aggressive all night and added eight points of his own.
“When Jesse is knocking down threes we become a very dangerous team,” senior guard Corey Schaefer said. “He seems to always have his hands on the ball defensively, whether it’s deflecting passes, blocking shots or rebounding. Miles always plays with energy for us and we need that off the bench.”
Lehigh was able to stretch the lead to a game-high 28 points as they went up 81-53 with just eight minutes to go. Defensively, Lehigh held Bucknell to just 35 percent shooting. While the game finished 84-65, Lehigh dominated throughout and a win like this will help to build the team’s confidence and momentum as it gears up for one final regular season game and the Patriot League Tournament, Schaefer said.
The win also means that the Mountain Hawks will have a playoff game, which can be vital in the playoffs.
“It’s always fun to play at Stabler in front of our own fans,” Schaefer said. “The Lehigh fans will be able to help us a tremendous amount come postseason play.”
Wednesday night’s game was also an opportunity for Lehigh students, faculty and staff to support Lehigh’s LGBT community. Lehigh’s Pride Center partnered with Student Senate and Lehigh Athletics in order to hold the event and fight for equality, regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender.
Jonathan Jean-Pierre, ’15, helped to organize the event. Jean-Pierre, while encouraged by the turnout and support the LGBT community received for the game, said he believes that more can be done going forward at Lehigh. He added that homophobia is something that must be fought on campus.
“Hopefully in the near future we can have more student engagement in planning,” Jean-Pierre said. “One day, hopefully, we won’t need to hold an event like this and create a space where people are comfortable regardless of their sexual orientation.”
There was also a kickoff for the LGBT equality event prior to the game in Lamberton Hall at 5:30 p.m., which allowed students, faculty and staff to speak about the importance of equality and how to address homophobia on college campuses and in other communities.
Lehigh will look to build on their momentum at its regular season finale Colgate University on Saturday. That game is the regular season finale for the Mountain Hawks.