In a back-and-forth nail biter between rivals, the Lehigh men’s basketball used a late run to take down Lafayette 75-68 Saturday night at Stabler Arena.
At halftime, the 2011-12 Mountain Hawks were honored for the five-year reunion of their upset over Duke University in the NCAA Tournament. The magic from that season and those players who joined in the halftime ceremony seemed to rub off on the current Mountain Hawks as they beat the Leopards with a score of 75-68.
Senior Austin Price, who totaled 24 points, described the emotions behind the rivalry by reflecting on his first experience of it.
“Freshman year I went out in awe of how many people come to the game and I was taking it all in.” Price said. “Today, I said we need to win this game.”
Lehigh started off on the right foot with the first basket of the game, a 3-pointer from sophomore Kyle Leufroy, and then remained in the lead for the rest of the first half. Both offenses came out aggressive but struggled to put points on the board.
Although Lehigh remained in the lead for the entire first half, Lafayette only trailed by three at the end of the first with a score of 28-25. Freshman Pat Andree lead Lehigh’s offense with five points and five rebounds.
Despite Lehigh’s lead in the first half senior Tim Kempton was not satisfied with the performance.
“We didn’t attack enough in the first half,” Kempton said. “We needed to force them to guard us inside the paint.”
The Leopards quickly changed the pace of the game by coming out of the locker room with a 10-0 to start the second half. Within two minutes, Lafayette took its first lead of the game and increased its lead to 35-28. After a timeout by Lehigh, the Hawks came back out ready to fight.
Lehigh started to chip away at the deficit and momentum began to swing in the Mountain Hawks’ favor. Lehigh regained a 47-45 lead after a fastbreak layup by Kempton at the 11-minute mark. The second half kept the fans on their toes as the score remained close for the remainder of the game.
The intensity of the game lead to fouls by both teams and Lehigh ended up on the line several times at the end of the game because of that. Kempton received plenty of Lafayette’s fouls.
“It’s tough sometimes to get in the flow and to feel out the defense and offense,” Kempton said. “But I keep trying to wear the team down and find a way to have an impact on the game.”
With just under two minutes left to play in the game, Price connected on a desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and the season-high 2100 fans in attendance erupted as Lehigh pushed its lead to 71-63, a lead that was insurmountable for the Leopards. Kempton finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.
The Mountain Hawks will be traveling to Colgate University for their next game after coming off of the rivalry win. The game is slated for a 7 p.m. tip Wednesday night.