Second Basketball Scouting Report: Lehigh
Army loved the way this past weekend unfolded. Second-place Boston University lost. Holy Cross lost to fall to fourth in the league. Army's win over Loyola of Maryland catapulted the Black Knights into sole possession of third place in the league, just one game behind Boston for second. Coach Zach Spiker's team wants to make sure it gets the third seed in the Patriot League Tournament, but now the second seed is a very attainable goal. Beating Lehigh is a must if that goal is to be obtained.
When Army last saw them on Jan. 8, the Mountain Hawks were in the midst of a miserable stretch in which they regularly lost by no more than four points. Lehigh suffered a 79-76 defeat at the hands of the Black Knights. A few days earlier, coach Brett Reed's team fell by a 67-66 score to Boston. On Jan. 11, Lehigh lost to Loyola, 72-68. On Jan. 15, it dropped a 65-63 decision to American University. It's not as though this team has been several notches below the competition in this conference. It has been right there with a chance to win just about every game it has played, the sole exception being a 19-point setback at Holy Cross on Jan. 18. If this team stayed the course, it was going to have a chance to do good things in the league.
That time has arrived.
All the close games that went in the wrong direction are now turning into wins for Lehigh. Over the past two weeks, the Mountain Hawks have won by scores of 68-66, 71-68, 66-63, and 82-80, with two of those wins coming in overtime. Army is playing a very confident team, one that has dealt with adversity by conquering it. Lehigh might be 5-5 in the conference, but this newfound penchant for winning nailbiters will make the Mountain Hawks a tough out at tournament time.
Center – Tim Kempton – Freshman, 6-10, 225 2013-14: 13.3 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game
Kempton has been a leading force for Lehigh during its resurgence. His averages are slightly up from the last time these teams played. He has a high ceiling in terms of his development as a player – he's going be a really big problem (literally and figuratively) for Patriot League foes in the years ahead.
Forward – Jesse Chuku – Sophomore, 6-8, 225; 2013-14: 8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.6 blocked shots per game
Chuku's numbers are relatively unchanged compared to the last time Army met Lehigh. His scoring and rebounding totals have inched downward, his blocked shot numbers a bit upward.
Guard – Austin Price – Freshman, 6-3, 175; 2013-14: 8.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Price has replaced teammate Shane Whitfield in the Army lineup. His scoring average is down nearly a full point (0.8) compared to the last time the Mountain Hawks and Black Knights played. Army must deny Price layups, so that he doesn't gain a measure of newfound confidence.
Guard – Corey Schaefer – Junior, 6-1, 175; 2013-14: 9.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.7 assists per game
Schaefer's statistical output is roughly identical to his numbers when Army and Lehigh last met.
Guard – Mackey McKnight – Senior, 6-0, 170; 2013-14: 14.1 ppg, 4 rpg, 6 apg, 1.5 steals per game
McKnight has not become a more accurate shooter. His shooting percentages – overall and from three-point range – are what they were on Jan. 8. You might be wondering why and how Lehigh has gotten better, if you're not seeing much improvement from the starting five in terms of nuts-and-bolts statistical production. The answer comes next:
Reed has been able to lengthen his bench as the season has moved along. You might recall that forward Conroy Baltimore was injured and sent to the shelf early in the season. On Jan. 8, Lehigh really hadn't cultivated much of any depth in place of Baltimore, and Whitfield (mentioned above) has not figured into that solution. The two men who have helped this team in its recent four-game winning streak are forward Justin Goldsborough and guard Stefan Cvrkalj. Goldsborough has scored at least 11 points in three of his last four games after failing to score anything more than 6 points in any of Lehigh's first 15 games this season. Cvrkalj has scored 14 points in two of his last four games, and 8 points in a third. Army needs to be ready to defend these two players, because if they get going, the Black Knights could be swimming against the current.
Keys to the Game
1) Contain Kempton. McKnight might still be the leading scorer on the Lehigh roster, but Kempton is the team's most formidable player right now. Army has to be able to have a defensive answer for him. He should be the focus of Spiker's defensive game plan.
2) Be ready for Lehigh's bench. The Mountain Hawks have improved because their bench and their depth have been upgraded over the past month. When both teams go to their reserves, Army has to be ready to defend at a higher level.
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