Chris Bengel (@clbengel)
Despite not playing in Madison Square Garden, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks didn’t take the NIT consolation bracket lightly as they defeated the Penn Quakers 73-66 on Tuesday night.
Senior forward Gabe Knutson was everywhere on the floor as he tallied 18 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds for the Mountain Hawks, which was good for his fourth career double-double.
“I thought it was important for (Knutson) to establish interior presence early,” Mountain Hawks coach Brett Reed said. “I thought during key stretches, we were able to get positive point production. When our energy level dissapated a little bit in the second half because they were getting loose fouls, he took a personal challenge to step up and grabbed quite a few more rebounds. We were going to need that rebounding production from him as well as his offensive production. He is a very intelligent player and has a great feel for the game.”
The game was very close entering the second half. The Quakers held a two-point lead in the final minute of the first frame. However, Lehigh guard Anthony D’Orazio connected on a three-point shot to give the Mountain Hawks a 32-31 lead entering the break.
Lehigh came out playing solid basketball in the second half. The game was back-and-forth through the first four minutes.
Lehigh went on a 9-4 run over the next two minutes to take a 51-41 lead. They would not look back. They outscored the Quakers 37-31 in the second half and ended up shooting 46.2 percent (24-of-52) from the field in the game.
The Quakers were able to claw their way back into the game late into the second half. They trailed by two at various points early on in the second half.
However Penn wasn’t able to overcome getting into foul trouble. The Quakers ended up with 23 fouls which resulted in 21 Lehigh points at the free-throw line. The Mountain Hawks shot 77.8 percent (21-of-27) from the charity stripe.
Lehigh had four starters score in double figures. C.J. McCollum led the way with 21, followed by Knutson’s 18. McKnight netted 15 while senior forward Holden Greiner scored 13 for the Mountain Hawks.
“To be able to have five or six guys that can score in double figures, you never know who’s going to go off,” Knutson added. “Holden, Mackey, and C.J. stepped up today and were able to produce. That makes it really hard for other teams to scout us.”
“It’s a team sport,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “We respect the game and fear no one. We have a responsibility to guard the basketball. To their credit, some guys stepped up and made some shots. In general, we have to get better and take care of the ball and close out possessions.”
Fran Dougherty led the way for Penn as he scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It was the third career double-double for the Archbishop Wood product.
As a team, the Quakers shot 41.4 percent from the floor and Dougherty was the only player in double figures. Freshman guard Tony Hicks added nine points to go along with four rebounds.
Penn did manage to outscore Lehigh’s bench, 36-3.
Forward Cameron Gunter got the start over sophomore Henry Brooks. Brooks ended up with the majority of the playing time. Brooks went 4-for-5 and ended up with eight points and four rebounds.
The Quakers shot the ball well in the first half as they went 13-for-26 and only trailed by a single point at the break.
The Mountain Hawks came out very strong shooting the basketball in the first half. Through the first five minutes of the contest, Lehigh shot 5-for-10 from the floor and jumped out to an early 10-2 lead.
With 15:54 remaining in the game, Lehigh point guard Mackey McKnight sprawled to the floor for a loose ball. McKnight was able to wrestle the ball away from a Penn Quaker and hand the ball off to McCollum. McCollum then hit Greiner with a nice pass which resulted in a layup plus the foul. Greiner would miss the free throw but the Mountain Hawks did hold a 42-37 lead.
Lehigh takes the court again on November 25 when they travel to Sacred Heart, while Penn will host Binghamton on November 28.