Game info: The Lehigh men’s basketball team (16-13, 11-7 PL) hosts Boston University (14-15, 10-8 PL) at Stabler Arena Thursday night for the Patriot League quarterfinals. The game is set to tip off at 7 p.m.
Lehigh’s previous game: The Mountain Hawks extended their winning streak to eight games with a 79-64 home victory against Lafayette College on Saturday to conclude their regular season. On Senior Night, senior guard Kahron Ross led the team in scoring with 17 points. Three other Mountain Hawks scored in double digits including junior guard Lance Tejada (13), freshman guard Marques Wilson (12) and sophomore forward Pat Andree (12). Lehigh held Lafayette 40.3 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from long distance. The win clinched the No. 4 seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
Last Lehigh vs. Boston U matchup: Lehigh took home an 80-75 victory over the Terriers on Feb. 3 at Stabler Arena to avenge its 92-81 loss at Boston U earlier this season. It was the first of seven wins in the Mountain Hawks’ perfect February. Freshman guard Caleb Bennett posted a career-high 23 points off the bench to lead Lehigh. Ross chipped in 18 points and three assists. Boston U’s Tyler Scanlon missed a game-tying three in the final seconds of the game as Lehigh escaped with the victory. This year’s Patriot League quarterfinal matchup will be a rematch of last year’s semifinals, which Lehigh won 91-88 in double overtime to advance to the championship game.
Inside the numbers: The Mountain Hawks lead the Patriot League in 3-point percentage at 40.9. Tejada (46.4) and Andree (42.9) are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in 3-point shooting for individuals. Lehigh enters the game as the second best Patriot League scoring team, averaging 77.7 points per game. The Mountain Hawks also sit second in free throw shooting at 77.5 percent. The Mountain Hawks had two All-Patriot League honorees this season. Tejada and Ross both make up the backcourt of the second team All-Patriot League. Ross leads in assists with 124, and junior guard Lance Tejada leads in scoring with 383 points, averaging 14.7 points per game.
Keys to the game:
1. Will Lehigh’s youth and inexperience in tournament play lead to its downfall?
Lehigh has only two players on its roster with at least five games of experience in the Patriot League Tournament — Ross and junior guard Kyle Leufroy. The freshmen trio of center James Karnik, Wilson and Bennett scored a combined 516 points of the team’s 2,254 total points this season. Wilson and Karnik are two of Lehigh’s starters, while Bennett averages 18.4 minutes per game off the bench.
Coach Brett Reed said it’s refreshing to have several players who have played in the postseason and been there in some of the bigger moments, but the young team lacks tournament experience overall.
“We have a mixture of a lot of guys who are either stepping up into new roles or have never experienced postseason basketball, so that’s where you have to trust your training,” he said. “This team’s really taken an identity of unselfishness where they’re really rooted together. I think that team unity, that team chemistry and that overall unselfishness is a guiding force to our success. That certainly becomes much more important than any one single player.”
2. Can the Mountain Hawks overcome the mental obstacles in the quarterfinals?
After a long season of traveling all over the country and playing 1,175 minutes on the court, the Mountain Hawks have to overcome physical and mental fatigue, but sophomore guard Jordan Cohen believes the mental aspect is more significant.
“I’d say it’s more mental,” Cohen said. “At this point, we have to forget about our physical issues. At this point, it’s win or go home.”
Reed said success depends on a combination of both aspects.
“They say mental is to physical as three is to one,” he said. “I’d never want to discount that mental side of things. That includes confidence, that includes chemistry and team unity. All that stuff kind of fits in a little bit. But, we’re going to have to bring the physical aspect, especially against our first opponent, and make sure that we have the toughness to rebound the ball, get on loose balls and play with all-out energy as well.”
3. Can the Mountain Hawks keep up their hot shooting in the Patriot League Tournament?
Leading the Patriot League in 3-point shooting, Lehigh’s damage from the perimeter is beyond Andree and Tejada.
“Well, the good thing for us is that we have a number of guys who can shoot the ball and are really big offensive weapons,” Reed said. “We’ve had a variety of different guys step up and lead us in scoring. It’s not that we’re relying on any one or two people. The combination of guys works out pretty well for us, and at any given night as a coach, I haven’t always known who’s going to be the guy who’s going to be our leading scoring and to be the hot hand.”
But Andree believes shooting isn’t the only factor of the Mountain Hawks’ chances of advancing.
“Obviously, you’re going to fight the game in so many different ways,” he said. “You don’t have to score the basketball to come out and be a factor. Do all the little things right. Let the game come to you. The only thing that matters is the scoreboard.”
Implications of the game: With a victory Monday, the Mountain Hawks will advance to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals. They will play the winner of the Bucknell University vs. Loyola University quarterfinal game. Lehigh split the season matchups 1-1 against both teams, winning the tail end of both series.