Lehigh's late run defeats Army, 64-45

In a game much closer than the final score indicated, the top seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks (20-10) rallied in the second half to overcome the upset minded eighth seeded Army Black Knights (14-15) in the Patriot League tournament. Lehigh finally prevailed over Army after being knocked out of the tournament three consecutive years by the Black Knights.

It was a frustrating game that was all too familiar to Army fans ever since the Patriot League season began. Army showed why its the best defensive team in the league as it contested every shot and forced eight turnovers in the first half that led to six Army points. Cleveland Richard, who led Army with 9 points, made one steal to end his career as the all-time leader in career steals at Army with 149.

The Black Knights held Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, their star freshman guard, to just two points in the first half. Army controlled the tempo and limited the opportunities of the high scoring Mountain Hawks. The problem was that despite all their brilliance on the defensive end Army struggled to hit wide-open jump shots. Tyrell Thompson hit a jump shot at the buzzer that gave Army a 20-18 halftime lead. Any Army fan watching the game had to feel that the lead should have been more if only Army could hit some shots.

The second half started with C.J. McCollum heating up as he scored the Mountain Hawks first six points. Army responded and took a 34-29 lead after two Julian Simmons free throws with 11:09 left in game. Army physical defense turned against them as they fouled often and put Lehigh in the free throw bonus midway through the half. It would prove costly as Lehigh went on a 14-2 run where half of the Mountain Hawks points came at the foul line.

A Josh Miller lay-up narrowed the Lehigh lead to five-points at 43-38 with just over five minutes left in game. Lehigh then proved to be as lucky as they are good when C.J. McCollum lost control of his dribble yet managed to throw a perfect pass going out of bounds to Michael Ojo who nailed a baseline three point shot. Mitch McDonald highlighted Army's offensive ineptitude when on back-to-back possessions. He passed up a wide-open three-point opportunity to drive then throw a pass away for a turnover. The next possession Mc Donald had an open lane to the basket and missed an uncontested layup. Around those two plays C.J. McCollum, who finished with 19 points, hit a layup and then Ojo hit a three-point shot to extend Lehigh's lead to 51-40 with just under four minutes left.

The Black Knights battled and never quit but hit only one field goal the rest of the game as they pressed and had to foul the Mountain Hawks in the hopes of extending the game. Lehigh outscored the Black Knights 14-5 over the last four minutes as they hit ten free throws. The lopsided 19-point final margin was not indicative how close Army came to being the first eight seed to defeat the top seed in the first round of the Patriot League tournament.

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