Opening the season with 11 non-conference games, the Lehigh men’s basketball team aims to improve its 3-4 record.
The Mountain Hawks’ first matchup against Xavier University gave Lehigh fans hope for another successful season as the men fell just three points to the No. 7 ranked team.
Senior center Tim Kempton said the team went into the game with confidence and a will to win, similar to any other game.
“Rankings are just numbers at the end of the day, and it was nice to play a highly regarded team to three points, but we still lost the game,” Kempton said.
Frustration followed the game after coming so close but not being able to seal the win.
Coach Brett Reed and sophomore guard Kyle Leufroy both agreed that poor execution and early errors in the game hurt the team.
Next, the Mountain Hawks faced two Ivy League schools, falling to Yale by eight points, 81-89 in overtime, and beating Princeton, 76-67.
Reed complimented the team’s strength on the offensive end, having different players step up and put points in the basket. He said Matt Holba is an example of a player coming off of an injury last season and playing significant minutes for the team this year.
One area the team said it wants to improve is defense, especially with individuals being able to hold their men one-on-one. Kempton said the team’s defense is their main priority going into its next games with a goal of going 5-0.
Facing Mississippi State University, Lehigh defeated the Bulldogs 87-73, clinching its first-ever win against an SEC team in school history.
Reed said playing non-conference games can benefit teams in the long run. He said it allows for a large margin of error so by the time Patriot League play comes around, those errors could be corrected.
“It’s a different look then what we’ll see in league,” Leufroy said. “It allows us to see where we stand by the time league play comes, what we need to work on and what we need to continue to do well.”
After the Mountain Hawks dropped their next two games to Arkansas State University and La Salle University, they bounced back with a 64-58 victory over Robert Morris University on Saturday.
Leufroy’s said always coming ready to play mentally and physically is key to winning these out-of-conference games. He said when the Hawks play as a team and share the ball, they’re tough to beat.
Kempton, a dominant force on the court, is averaging 25 points a game against the tough competition.
“I put in the work in the offseason to perform at this level, so it is no surprise to me,” Kempton said. “I just continue to fall back on my training.”
The Mountain Hawks will play their next non-conference game Tuesday at Stony Brook, leaving just four more games until the beginning of Patriot League play, which begins Dec. 30.