Lehigh men’s basketball will match up against long-time rival Lafayette in the first round of the Patriot League playoffs in Stabler Arena on March 2 at 7 p.m.
The Mountain Hawks finished the regular season with a record of 16-13, going 11-7 in Patriot League play.
This secured them the third seed, behind Colgate and Navy.
Lafayette finished the season sixth in the Patriot League, going 9-22 overall and 7-11 in conference play.
The last time the two teams met for a postseason game was in 2013 when third-seed Lehigh fell 82-69 to second-seed Lafayette in the semifinals.
Lehigh won all their games against Lafayette this year. They also won their last three matchups of the season.
Lehigh has an overall record of 29-19 against Lafayette in men’s basketball since 2002 and a record of 18-7 when playing them at home.
The Mountain Hawks look forward to the challenge of playoffs.
Sophomore guard Keith Higgins said the most exciting part about playing in the postseason is knowing that everyone is playing their best basketball.
“Every play matters a lot more,” Taylor said. “You’re going to see the competitiveness rise up a notch from your teammates and the teams you’re playing against, and it’s just a lot of fun, especially with the fans there at home or even at an away game.”
Higgins had a strong season, leading the team in points per game with 14.9 and shooting career-highs from the field and the three-point line at 48.1% and 41.6%, respectively.
He said the team has been focusing on their defensive mindset in preparation for the game. He praised the team’s attention to detail and recent offensive efficiency.
Senior guard Evan Taylor said he looks to continue his strong season going into the playoffs. He averaged a career-high 14.2 points per game, shooting 42.4% from the field and 42.3% from behind the three-point line.
Taylor was selected to the All-Patriot League second team.
In preparation for their matchup against Lafayette, he said the team is focusing on percolating the offense and maintaining strong defensive coverages.
“We just focus a little bit more on execution than we ever have,” Taylor said. “The guys are just the most locked in we’ve been this year.”
Sophomore guard Tyler Whitney-Sidney said the team has been challenging themselves by trying to make their practices harder than their games.
He said when it comes to tough matches, it’s all about mentality.
“We’re trying to go into practice with an every game can be our last mindset,” Whitney-Sidney said. “Our work on the defensive end is starting to show, so for us, it’s just working hard every single day.”
Whitney-Sidney has been crucial for the Mountain Hawks throughout the season, averaging 15 points per game in his last five games, improving upon his season average of 13.4 points per game.
Despite the disappointing end to last year’s playoff run, where the Mountain Hawks lost to 2022 champions Colgate in the semifinals, Lehigh is optimistic about this year’s title, and their expectations are clear.
“(Our goal is) to make it to the championship game,” Whitney-Sidney said. “We know what we have to do, and I think you’d probably end up seeing us in the championship on CBS, and hopefully, we do what we have to do to make it to March Madness.”