Senior Lance Tejada wants to leave his own legacy behind when he graduates. He doesn’t want Lehigh’s basketball team to just be known as the “team that beat Duke” anymore.
Although he appreciates everything C.J. McCollum has done for the program, the senior guard said it is time for this year’s team to leave its own mark on the school.
“We want to leave Lehigh with our own identity,” Tejada said. “We want to leave a mark here.”
So far, the Mountain Hawks have done just that.
The team is the only NCAA Division I team that is ranked in the top 20 nationally in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage. Lehigh is arguably the best shooting team in the country.
Coach Brett Reed attributes this success to the team’s unselfishness.
“We have some players that are really gifted in shooting the basketball,” Reed said. “However, the second component is that they are pretty unselfish.”
Reed said the constant movement of the ball opens up the floor for players and gives them a lot of shooting options.
This is something junior guard Jordan Cohen attests to.
“Everyone on the court can score and go off at any moment,” Cohen said. “That is a huge difference in this year’s season.”
However, like Tejada, Cohen has aspirations to go further than what is expected of them.
“When people think of Lehigh they think oh ‘Lehigh beat Duke in 2012, ‘” Cohen said. “We just hear that way too often, and we haven’t accomplished anything ourselves. Our goal is to make March Madness and win a game and prove our name for ourselves.”
Cohen said one of the team’s biggest challenges this season is its defense. However, he said that the team’s chemistry is its biggest strength.
Cohen said that any game Lehigh is playing should be considered winnable.
“The journey of every season has its challenges of trying to get a group of individual guys on the same page,” Reed said. “The relationship they have with each other is very strong, so there have been challenges that come from external sources, and fortunately our guys have reduced the number of internal challenges because of their comradery and chemistry.”
He said the team has had so many different guys step up at different times throughout the season, and that it doesn’t matter if you are a starter or not, everyone has had their moment.
“We have a stronger nucleus of options,” Reed said. “I can go through a laundry list of games where we had different players kind of step up which is a reason why we have been a very strong team.”
With the regular season coming to a close, the Mountain Hawks are focused set on the Patriot League tournament.
Two games behind Bucknell for the top seed, Lehigh has to win the tournament in order to make it into the March Madness bracket.
“Every team sets out aspirations for their own identity,” Reed said. “This team has proven that we could be in contention for a championship. There is a lot of work ahead of us in order to make that happen.”
Reed said he is hopeful that the players can win the championship and have a magical experience of their own.
The Mountain Hawks play Army on Feb. 20 at Stabler Arena. It is one of the team’s last four games in the regular season.
“It is not wise to overlook what’s coming for you and not wise not to be humble enough to understand that people will come after you,” Reed said. “However, in the moment, these guys want to establish their own identity.”