Lehigh went on the road to the friendly confines of Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg and won for the third time in a little over 11 months, becoming the first team to ever win three straight at Sojka, this time by a final score of 65-62. Lehigh playing again without the services of their All American guard CJ McCollum, would not be deterred in their efforts to remain undefeated in Patriot League play and take over sole possession of first place. Lehigh, with the victory, moves to 4-0 in league play and hands Bucknell their first league loss.
Lehigh needed to get out to a hot start in a hostile environment and they were the team that was most ready to play when the ball was thrown up to start the game. Lehigh rode the hot hands of Holden Greiner and BJ Bailey in the first half, as the two combined to score 16 of Lehigh’s first 19 points, each chipping in 8. Lehigh extended its first half lead to 15 points, leading 27-12 at one point after a couple deep three pointers from Corey Schaefer. The first half however was a tale of two halves, as Lehigh won the first part of the half but the veteran laden Bison squad came storming back, and cut the Lehigh lead at the half to one point.
The second half was nip and tuck for the entire 20 minute frame, as both teams battled back and forth jockeying for pole position. Bucknell got a scare when Muscala went down after fouling BJ on a drive to the rim, which forced Muscala to miss roughly 5+ minutes in the second half, but Bucknell excelled with their all league center on the bench, spurred on by freshman forward Dom Hoffman who hit several big buckets with Muscala on the bench. Bucknell’s size was starting to wear down the Mountain Hawks and the Bison started to build up a bit of a lead before Mackey McKnight and BJ Bailey took over. BJ continued his hot outside shooting in the second half, in route to a perfect 4 for 4 night from the 3 point line, and when the Bucknell defense closed out on BJ he attacked the rim with aggressiveness and determination. BJ continued to penetrate into the heart of the defense and finished or drew fouls from the Bison big men. BJ finished with a game high 18 points, he also added in 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 rebounds, and a steal. If BJ was Batman, McKnight was his Robin in the second half. Mackey finished with 17 points and a 8 big rebounds for the Mountain Hawks, and was the Maestro Man once again, making great decisions with the ball in his hands as evident by his zero turnovers in 37 minutes of action. Mackey hit the 3 ball tonight, going 3 for 5 from distance, and also penetrated and finished or drew fouls at the rim.
Coach Reed made a great lineup decision with roughly 6 minutes left in the game to counter the size of Bucknell, as he inserted freshman big man Justin Goldsborough and the frontcourt of Knutson/Greiner/Goldsborough with BJ and Mackey in the backcourt really pushed Lehigh over the finish line. Goldsborough had some big moments on the glass and by putting some points on the board in the second half, and has some of the quickest hops off the floor that has been seen in Patriot League action. This big lineup helped control the glass, limit Bucknell to one shot, and helped close the rebounding margin at a crucial time. Knutson, finished with a team high 9 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive end, including a big one in the final minutes of play that lead to an extra Lehigh possession.
With the win, Lehigh just let the world know what many inside and around the program already knew, that this is a TEAM and a TEAM that isn’t going away no matter who is on the court. Backed by a phenomenal coaching staff and a team of brothers who root and pull for one another, the Mountain Hawks are flying high into their battle with their local rival from Easton at Stabler Arena on Sunday.