Lehigh men’s basketball lost to Cornell 96-64 in its 11th and final out-of-conference game before Patriot League play.
This was Cornell’s 14th win against Lehigh in program history, setting the all-time record between the schools at 14-9.
Lehigh struggled with Cornell’s fast-paced tempo and full court press, which resulted in turnovers. Lehigh committed eight in the first half alone. Cornell only turned it over once.
Lehigh’s lack of a true big man was glaring against the Big Red. Cornell scored 18 first half points in the paint, 16 of them scored within the restricted circle.
Lehigh’s help defense was lacking, too. Five minutes into play in the first half, Cornell junior Chris Manon made a quick hesitation move on senior Evan Taylor, just enough to get by him and finish at the rim with a thunderous dunk. No secondary or tertiary defender slid over to pick Manon up. A few possessions later, Manon backed down sophomore Tyler Whitney-Sidney, spun quickly by him and finished at a once again empty basket.
Cornell scored from all three levels, shooting 55.3% (21-38) from the field in the first half, compared to Lehigh’s 36.7% (10-28).
Lehigh struggled to penetrate a swarming Cornell defense, attempting only three shots in the paint in the first frame. The Mountain Hawks relied on their 3-point shooting but only converted three of 13 first half attempts.
Trailing by 21 at the half, coach Brett Reed made some lineup changes to begin the second. Lehigh started freshman Henry Adiassa in place of junior Dominic Parolin and sophomore Ben Knostman in place of Whitney-Sidney, who played a season-low 14 minutes in the game.
“Fortunately our guys were able to make a few adjustments in the second half,” Reed said. “We got 20 points in the paint and we got to the free throw line 10 times.”
The adjustments were not enough to stop Cornell, which continued to grow its lead throughout the second half.
Adiassa provided some interior presence for the Mountain Hawks, but didn’t take a shot in 16 minutes of action.
Cornell poured on 3s in the second frame, hitting five within the first seven minutes and 12 in the whole period. Cornell’s 15 total 3-pointers was its second most in the season, only trailing its 114-57 onslaught against SUNY Delhi, when the Red hit 22 3s.
Sophomore guard Keith Higgins Jr. led all scorers with 21 points — his season high. Higgins Jr. scored in a variety of ways, knocking down two 3s and scoring both in the paint and midrange.
“There were some good things that happened with him when he had the ball in his hands and when he was assertive and aggressive… We look at him to be a very good shooter for us,” Reed said.
Lehigh scheduled a well-rounded pre-Patriot League season schedule this year. The Mountain Hawks competed against three Power Five schools (Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin), five mid-major programs (UMBC, Marist, St. Francis, Monmouth and Maryland Eastern Shore), two Division III programs (Misericordia and St. Elizabeth) and completed the stretch with today’s Ivy League matchup.
Lehigh now sits at 5-6 headed into Patriot League play. A pre-season poll picked Lehigh to finish third in the conference, behind Colgate (17 first place votes) and Boston University. The Mountain Hawks received two first place votes.
Lehigh will take a break for the holidays before playing next on the road against Army on Dec. 30.