Lafayette tops Lehigh in Patriot League Men's Basketball Semifinal Leopards go to third title game in the last four years
March 9, 2013
EASTON, Pa.- Lafayette will return to the Patriot League Men's Basketball Championship for the third time in the last four years and sixth overall after the second-seed Leopards won 82-69 at home against third-seed Lehigh in a semifinal contest of the League Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
The Leopards will search for their first League title since 2000, and third overall, when they play at top-seed Bucknell in the Patriot League Men's Basketball Championship on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
Lafayette won its seventh straight game, its longest streak since 2004. The Leopards beat the rival Mountain Hawks for the third time this season to improve to 19-14 overall. Lehigh fell to 21-9 on the season with the loss.
Senior guard Tony Johnson was magnificent again for the Leopards, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead the team in all areas. He was one of four Leopards in double figures, as Seth Hinrichs scored 18 points, Dan Trist finished with 13 and Bryce Scott had 12. The Leopards made 28-of-30 free throws in the game and held a 35-25 edge on the boards.
Lehigh scored the first seven points of the game and held a 13-7 lead early, but the Leopards turned the tide with a 19-4 stretch. Lafayette finished the surge with eight straight points to grab a 26-17 advantage. Lehigh scored the final five points of the period to cut the deficit to 35-33 at the break.
The Mountain Hawks evened the score with the first bucket of the second half, but the Leopards scored the next seven and never trailed again. Lehigh cut the gap back down to 42-40, and the Leopards responded with a 10-0 run to take a 12-point lead on Johnson's three-pointer with 14:45 to go. The lead would swell as high as 16 points at 60-46 with 10:36 left, but Lehigh would chip away and get the score all the way down to 66-61 on a three-point play by Mackey McKnight with 5:35 to go. The Mountain Hawks would not get any closer, as the Leopards made all 14 of their free throws in the final five minutes and scored the final six points to pull away for the 82-69 win.
The Leopards hit a shade under 45 percent from the field at 24-of-54, and had an uncharacteristically tough night from long range with a 6-22 clip on three-pointers. Lafayette made up for it with 15 offensive rebounds, as well as the impressive clip at the foul line. Lafayette also limited Lehigh to 5-of-16 from three-point range. The Leopards beat the Mountain Hawks in the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2000, which was also the last time they swept three games from Lehigh.
Lafayette has a 2-3 mark in the Patriot League Championship winning back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000 in addition to appearances in 1998, 2010 and 2011.
Mackey McKnight led Lehigh with 22 points, while Holden Greiner had 16 and Gabe Knutson and B.J. Bailey each finished with 10. The Mountain Hawks were 22-of-47 from the field and 20-of-27 at the foul line, but could not get enough stops down the stretch to make a comeback. Lehigh had won two of the last three Patriot League titles and was trying to repeat as champion.
The No. 2 seed now has a 9-1 advantage in the semifinal round against the No. 3 seed, with wins in nine consecutive meetings since 1992.
Recaps from each of the schools and the box score from the contest is included below.