The Black Knights started out strong in the second half. They cut Lehigh's lead to 26-24 3 minutes in, keyed by buckets from Corban Bates and Matt Bell. Jarell Brown's 3-pointer answered a 3-pointer from Mitch Gilfillan of Lehigh, and the score was 30-27, Lehigh, with 15 minutes to play. It was at this point where Lehigh's star of the game, Joe Knight, took over. Playing only his second game of the season after recovering from an injury, Knight looked in mid-season form. He singlehandedly hit a tough trey as the shot clock was expiring, stole the ball from Army and assisted on a Bryan White dunk, hit yet another 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down and finally added 2 free throws. Lehigh extended its lead to 43-29 with 10 to play.
After the teams traded 2 buckets each, Army, with its never-say-die attitude, hung tough. A 15-ft jumper by Sinning and a conversion of 3 free throws by Jarell Brown, who was fouled on a 3-pt attempt, cut the lead to 9. After another Gilfillan 3-pointer with about 4 to play made the score, Lehigh 52 Army 40. It was at this point that Army made its final comeback attempt. Matt Bell poured in 6 consecutive unanswered points to close the gap to 52-46. Then, the key point of the game occurred. Army was playing very tough on defense, and Joe Knight, in frustration, put his arm around Marshall Jackson and grabbed him. It was a clear offensive foul to everyone except the 3 striped shirts on the floor, who incredulously whistled the foul on Jackson. This was so bad, one of the Army coaches actually flipped his clipboard up and over his head in extreme disgust. The referee who made the call was out of position on the play. Nevertheless, Joe Knight took advantage of the egregious call, and added a free throw to stop the mini-Army run. The next couple of minutes saw some outstanding long-range shooting by the Black Knights. Dan Borcherdt hit a couple of 3 point field goals from way behind the arc. Army had to continually put the Mountain Hawks on the line, and as good teams do, they would convert these opportunities. When it was all said and done, Army also got a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Brown and made it very close, but Black Knights fell at the hands of the Mountain Hawks, 63-60.
Corban Bates was the overall best Army player out there, earning a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Cory Sinning played another excellent overall game, adding 9 points, and led the team in assists with 4 while also contributing 5 boards. Jarell Brown led the team in scoring with 14, and Matt Bell added 13.
The Mountain Hawks were led by Joe Knight, A High Point transfer, Knight was just too talented for Army to handle. He was lightning fast, and gave Army's defenders reason to worry. He converted 13 of 18 trips to the charity stripe, he also shot 6 of 9 from the field. Jose Olivero added 14 points, and Mike Fischman pulled down 10 rebounds in addition to 5 points.
On one hand, you never got the feeling Army would win this one. At the same time, the referees gave Lehigh 34 trips to the free throw line whereas Army earned only 12 trips. While some were necessary to to slow the clock in the last couple of minutes of the game, nevertheless, Lehigh was tough with going to the free throw line, and pulled away 63-60.
Army's next game is on the road at American University on Wednesday night, January 18th. The Black Knights have never defeated American since American joined the Patriot League. They are 0-3 in the PL (overall 4-11), and will need another excellent effort to have a chance to win.