No. 8 Lehigh hosted a first round Patriot League tournament game against No. 9 Loyola Tuesday night, defeating them 78-75 in a closely contested battle.
A last-second three-pointer for Loyola wasn’t enough to avoid defeat, as Lehigh hung on for the victory.
The two teams played twice already in the season, with Lehigh winning both games. Lehigh beat Loyola 74-71 on Feb. 29 to host today’s game at Stabler Arena.
Sophomore forward Jeameril Wilson said that the win today was very important.
“We weren’t trying to think ahead to Colgate,” Wilson said. “I think that was very mature with some of our young players. They sometimes focus on the next game.”
Lehigh got off to a slim early lead, 9-8, at the first media timeout, but things quickly changed.
The Mountain Hawks started to take some control after junior guard Marques Wilson contributed 10 of the team’s first 21 points, as Lehigh held a seven-point lead at the second media timeout with 11:16 to go in the first half.
“I just wanted to set the tone,” junior guard Marques Wilson said. “As one of the upperclassmen, this game is a very high-stakes game and, going into a game as important as this, it’s easy to be nervous, be tight — especially coming in at the beginning of the game. I just wanted to be an example that our team could look to — especially our younger guys — that we can play confident, and we deserve to be in this game and we have the talent to win this game.”
Lehigh’s three-point shooting propelled them to a 14-0 run against Loyola.
The Mountain Hawks shot 42 percent from the field, and the Greyhounds then took a quick timeout down 28-16 with 9:48 left in the first half.
Loyola answered with their own three-pointers to chip at the lead, only down six with seven minutes left. The Greyhounds went into a 2-3 zone and pressed the Mountain Hawks to put some pressure on them.
Marques Wilson and sophomore forward Jeameril Wilson both had 12 points in the first half, helping contribute to a 40-33 lead at the half.
Loyola went on a 5-0 run to start the second half to cut the deficit to two points.
Freshman guard Reed Fenton and junior center James Karnik quickly answered back to propel their own 5-0 run. Lehigh led 46-40 with 15 minutes left.
The Greyhounds went on another five-point run to cut the deficit to one, shortening Lehigh’s lead to the smallest it had been since the first media timeout.
It was a contested second half, with Cam Spencer leading Loyola with 18 points to help the Greyhounds to their first lead since the beginning of the game.
Freshman guard Evan Taylor scored a quick five points to give Lehigh some momentum holding a 64-60 lead. With three minutes to go, Lehigh led by four.
Lehigh took a seven-point lead with 1:12 to go in the game sparked by a Jeameril WIlson putback.
Loyola didn’t back down though, as Spencer quickly answered back for the Greyhounds with a three-pointer. With a minute to go, Lehigh had a 76-72 lead.
Santi Aldama hit a three-pointer to cut Lehigh’s lead to one with 13 seconds left to go in the game.
Loyola fouled Marques Wilson with 7.7 seconds after an inbounds pass, sending him to the line. It was one and one, but Wilson converted both free throws to give Lehigh a much-needed three-point cushion.
Spencer could not convert a last second three-pointer, to secure a 78-75 win for Lehigh.
Jeamerill Wilson led the way with 18 points for the Mountain Hawks.
“At this stage, I don’t think we’re going to reinvent ourselves,” head coach Brett Reed said. “We’re going to have some specific reminders of our game plan. Certainly, there will be adjustments with things we can do better. But a lot of our energy and focus at this time of the year is going to be making sure that we maintain our confidence and create great emotional energy and unity amongst our team.”
Lehigh will play top-seeded Colgate in the quarterfinals on March 5 at Reid Athletic Center in Hamilton, New York.