Lehigh men’s basketball team will spend a portion of its Thanksgiving break on the West Coast as the Mountain Hawks will play the University of Southern California on Wednesday at 10 p.m.
USC came into the season ranked No. 10 in the country and have some of the country’s top players. Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright are all off to a great start, combining for 36.5 points per game of the team’s average of 80. The Trojans blew out Cal State Fullerton Titans by 42 points in their opening game.
Going up against a team like USC isn’t a typical opponent for Patriot League teams. It’s going to be a test for the team to battle against big named stars to get them ready for conference play. USC is the highest ranked opponent Lehigh will face this season.
“We’re trying to focus one day, one practice and one game at a time and making the most out of every opportunity and trying to improve every day,” junior Kyle Leufroy said.
Lehigh has a 3-1 record, taking down Marist College, Siena College and Eastern University while coming up shy to Monmouth University by only eight points. The Mountain Hawks have won three of their first four games for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
The game will serve as a homecoming to California natives Leufroy and sophomore guard Jordan Cohen, but Cohen said the team will treat this like any other game.
“Honestly, we have been focusing on the games that we have first. When the time comes, we will prepare just as we always do for any normal game,” Cohen said.
The team’s confidence is in a good place right now and despite the magnitude of the opponent, Lehigh expects to come out with an upset victory.
“We’re a talented team, so we expect to go in Wednesday to compete and try to leave with a win,” Leufroy said.
Other than USC’s stellar defense, the Mountain Hawks will have to stop the big-time scorers this coming week. Boatwright is averaging 20.5 points per game along with Metu averaging 16 per game. Guard Jordan McLaughlin has also tallied 12 points per game and seven rebounds per game.
“We’re focused on locking in, paying attention to our scouting reports that are well made by our coaches and just make it a team effort doing whatever necessary in order to win,” Leufroy said.
This is an opportunity for the Mountains Hawks to garner some attention on the national level. The game will be played in Galen Center, which holds just over 10,000 fans. A win in front of their biggest crowd so far this season would bode well for the Mountain Hawks going forward.
“Obviously it’s a huge confidence booster if we win,” Leufroy said. “If we lose, take it as any other loss and be ready to get back to the drawing boards to show who we are.”