It was a nail-biter at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, as Lehigh men’s basketball bested rival Lafayette 90-89 on a last-second shot by senior guard Marques Wilson in overtime Saturday afternoon in the teams’ season opener.
After Lafayette guard E.J. Stephens hit a shot with two seconds left to put the Leopards up 89-87, Lehigh had one chance left and went with Wilson, Lehigh’s lone senior.
“The play was drawn up for me,” Wilson said. “I knew I was supposed to get the ball, but they had defended a similar play earlier pretty well. I didn’t know if I was going to be open, but I saw I was going to get the ball, and Reed (Fenton) threw it to me. I turned around and knew I had to get a shot up. I let it fly, and it felt good leaving my hands, but when it’s a shot like that, you never expect it. You dream about it as a kid but never expect it to fall last-second buzzer-beater. I was honestly terrified because I knew my team was about to clobber me.”
Wilson, who led the Mountain Hawks with 28 points, shot 11 for 20 from the field. Junior center Nic Lynch also played a key role in today’s game, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
It was the first time the Mountain Hawks took the court since their loss to Colgate in the Patriot League quarterfinals on March 5, 2020. While it took some time to find their rhythm, once they got going, they were nearly unstoppable.
Despite there being no fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there wasn’t a lack of quietness in the arena. Both teams were very communicative throughout the close game, and when Wilson hit the game-winning shot, Lehigh’s bench went crazy.
Junior forward Jeameril Wilson opened up the scoring for Lehigh off a foul shot, but Lafayette took control of the majority of the game after a three-point shot from senior guard Justin Jaworski. He finished the night with 37 points and shot 63 percent from the field. Jaworski was named to the 2020-2021 Patriot League Preseason All-League Team.
Stephens also scored 30 points of his own off the bench. He and Jaworksi combined for 67 of Lafayette’s 89 points.
Lafayette ended the half leading Lehigh 45-39 and continued to do so until Marques Wilson turned the game around.
“I felt a responsibility to set the tone and calm our guys down to get us into our rhythm, to support our guys, and be that sense of calm on the floor,” Wilson said. “I wanted to give my experience to all the younger guys. Taking control came as a by-product of that.”
Head coach Brett Reed said he was impressed with the performance that culminated with the first Lehigh victory in nearly 10 months.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Reed said. “ This was a long time coming for us to be out there on the court. Our guys have sacrificed a lot. They’ve invested a lot and put a lot into the opportunity to be able to play and play together. Tonight was a wonderful way to kick off the college basketball season.”
While Lehigh captured the win today, they will have 24 hours to make adjustments when they look to beat Lafayette for the second straight day at 4 p.m. at Kirby Arena in Easton.