Lehigh men's basketball suffered their first defeat in nine games on Feb. 1, 2023, losing 71-69 to Army 71-69. The team is currently second in the Patriot League. (Jiaqi Han/B&W Staff)

Lehigh men’s basketball falls to Army at home


Lehigh men’s basketball suffered their first defeat in nine games on Wednesday night, falling 71-69 to Army on a game-winning layup with five seconds remaining.

Army (14-11, 7-4 PL) led the game for a majority of the first half. Lehigh (13-10, 8-3 PL) remained within striking distance but struggled to contain Army guard Jalen Rucker. Rucker finished with 16 first-half points, including a couple of deep 3s, and a contested step-back jumper at the end of the half. Army led 36-32 at halftime.

The Black Knights began the second half by extending their lead to 10 with just under 18 minutes left to play. The Mountain Hawks responded with a run of their own, scoring the game’s next 11 points. Lehigh took back the lead with 14:34 left on the clock. 

When asked about the team’s scoring run that kept them in the game, head coach Brett Reed pointed out that the team’s defense was particularly strong.

“I thought on a night where we didn’t necessarily shoot it very well, our defensive energy and turning Army over was the difference in the game,” Reed said. “The way in which we were able to generate steals, which led to transition buckets, was incredibly important for us, and ultimately helped us to compensate a little bit when we weren’t converting from the perimeter.”

Another main catalyst in Lehigh’s run was sophomore point guard Ben Knostman. Knostman finished with a career-high 10 points and had multiple plays throughout the second half where he was able to break down the Army defense and finish at the rim. Knostman credited his teammates for believing in him and for encouraging him to look for his own shot.

“It was kind of just the team,” Knostman said. “They were all telling me to be aggressive. They’ve been telling me that for weeks.”

During the final stretch of the game, it was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team able to gain a clear advantage. Each time it seemed like the Black Knights were pulling away, Lehigh was able to answer. 

Sophomore guard Keith Higgins Jr. played especially well down the stretch, hitting multiple pull-up jumpers to keep the Mountain Hawks in the game. 

Higgins Jr. finished with a team-high 17 points, his sixth straight game scoring in double figures. When asked about his successful scoring night, Higgins Jr. noted that the team was able to run the offense well and his teammates put him in a position to score.

“It is just our offense execution,” Higgins Jr. said. “Guys were setting good screens, finding me in the right spot, and I was able to hit some shots.”

With 13.5 seconds remaining, the score was tied at 69 and the Black Knights had possession of the ball. Following the inbound pass, an Army guard slipped a screen and found himself wide open under the basket for the go-ahead score with just over five seconds remaining. After a Lehigh timeout, the Mountain Hawks last-ditch effort to score was unsuccessful as Army emerged with the victory 71-69.

The Mountain Hawks will travel to Lafayette on Saturday for their next matchup with the opportunity to sweep the season series against the Leopards. Despite the loss, Lehigh remains a game ahead of Army in second place in the Patriot League standings. 

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