In the last eight minutes of Monday’s rivalry matchup, the Lafayette men’s basketball team scored just four points, allowing Lehigh to pull away in the final moments of an otherwise tight game and ultimately beat the Leopards 87-72.
“Even though we’re young that still was unacceptable and something that I thought we were past…” said senior co-captain Bryce Scott, who led Lafayette with 19 points. “We’ve been building throughout the last few games. We’ve seen some positive stuff, and it’s tough to go back to that and show some inexperience.”
Despite solid shooting from Lafayette, with over 50 percent made from the field and over 45 percent from behind the arc, the Patriot League shootout ended in favor of the Mountain Hawks after some untimely turnovers from Lafayette. The Leopards ended the game with 19 turnovers, six of which came within the final 10 minutes.
“We came out well. We were kind of trading buckets there — and even in the second half we were trading buckets. Then we had that period there,” Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “We turned it over…and they were away.”
O’Hanlon credits Lehigh’s defensive effort, specifically noting the Mountain Hawks’ total number of blocked shots. Junior Tim Kempton and senior Jesse Chuku, Lehigh’s leading scorers of the night, contributed three and two blocked shots, respectively. With his two, Chuku reached 100 blocks for his career.
“It would have been so easy, particularly on that block where he [Kempton] ran that shot down, for him to kind of ease up because he was out of the play,” Lehigh Head Coach Brett Reed said. “For him to recover with that type of speed is not something that’s necessarily a characteristic that we expect from him…That whole mindset and mentality has started to take a stronger hold with our team.”
Lehigh’s strong defense took its toll late in the game, but up until the final eight minutes Lafayette was on equal ground. Scott, sophomore Matt Klinewski, junior Monty Boykins and senior Zach Rufer all had impressive offensive streaks, sending Lafayette into the locker room up 42-40 at half.
This lead continued through the second half until the 16:31 mark when Lehigh tied the game up at 48. The scoring was back and forth for the next three minutes before Lehigh went on a 25-15 run, breaking away from the Leopards and sealing the victory.
Scott rebounded from a slow afternoon against Boston University, where he tallied just four points, to lead Lafayette’s scoring against the Mountain Hawks, going 7-12 from the field, including five three-pointers. Klinewski had another strong game, adding 17 points to the effort, while Boykins and Rufer added 12 and nine respectively.
“I’ve been working hard,” Scott said. “I had a little slump there for a little bit – I worked hard to get out of it. My teammates found some good looks for me and I was able to knock a few down, but not enough.”
Recent 1,000-point scorer, junior co-captain Nick Lindner had a quiet afternoon, ending the game with just three points. The point guard made Lafayette’s first bucket of the game, only shooting the ball once more early in the second half.
Lehigh ended the game with four players in double figures. Kempton lead the team with 22 points, while Chuku finished close behind with 18. Sophomore Kahron Ross added 16 points and eight assists to the effort, and junior Austin Price finished close behind with 15 points and seven assists.
“I don’t think we’ve played to our potential at all this season, everything is finally starting to click,” Kempton said. “I mean you saw tonight, Lafayette shot 60 percent in the first half and we didn’t get in a rut on offense, which helps, and we were able to fall back on our defense in the second half which let us win the game.”
Lafayette looks to improve in Patriot League play as they take on Navy tomorrow at home at 2 p.m.
“I think that in the second half of the year we’ve been competing,” O’Hanlon said. “We competed in this game — we just had a stretch there where they turned it up and we didn’t match.”