With 1:54 remaining in Lehigh’s men’s basketball’s home game against Saint Francis Wednesday night, junior guard Tyler Whitney-Sidney made two free throws to put Lehigh up seven points.
Immediately after, the Mountain Hawks’ lead evaporated quickly.
In just over 90 seconds, Lehigh (1-6) turned the ball over twice and Saint Francis (3-5) picked up three foul shots and a layup. Down 61-59 with 10 seconds left, Saint Francis’s sophomore guard Cam Gregory fell to the ground after a 3-point attempt and was granted a foul.
Whitney-Sidney, who was guarding Gregory, immediately threw up his hands in disbelief as he accumulated his fifth foul of the game.
After the game, Lehigh coach Brett Reed questioned the validity of the call.
“Supposedly, we fouled a 3-point shooter which gave them points at the line,” Reed said. “It’s a disappointing turn of events.”
He made all of his shots at the line and Saint Francis walked away from Stabler Arena with an improbable 62-61 comeback win.
Both teams shot below 40% from the field and the teams combined for only nine makes on 48 3-point attempts. Saint Francis separated itself from Lehigh on the boards, building a 43-35 advantage which included six offensive rebounds in the second half.
Lehigh senior forward Dom Parolin said the team struggled with physicality and Saint Francis put more effort in during the game.
“We’re just playing too tentative,” Parolin said. “We were just playing scared and we let them be aggressive.”
The game started with Saint Francis, a team with only freshmen and sophomores, going on a run that put them up 14-7 just before the halfway point of the first half. Lehigh fought back in the final 10 minutes of the half to take a 30-28 lead heading into the half.
Lehigh’s junior guard Keith Higgins Jr. gave Lehigh the lead back with his second 3-pointer from the right angle of the first half. Higgins Jr. finished the game with a season-high 24 points.
“I think my teammates were getting me in good spots but it wasn’t enough to win,” Higgins Jr. said.
The game stayed in or near a one-possession difference throughout most of the second half. The Red Flash used a balanced offensive attack to their advantage. Gregory, freshman guard Aaron Talbert and first-year forward Eli Wilborn all finished in double figures. After Wilborn fouled out with just under two minutes left, Saint Francis began their comeback.
After the game, Reed said Lehigh needed to focus on correcting their rebounding struggles. Lehigh have been outrebounded in each of their last games against Division I teams.
“We have to rebound the basketball better than we did,” Reed said. “That has to be able to allow us to finish possessions.”
The loss is Lehigh’s sixth consecutive against Division I opponents to open the season. The last time Lehigh lost their first six games against Division I opponents in a season was in 2015.
Lehigh men’s basketball will play next on Dec. 2 when they face the University of Maryland-Baltimore County on the road.