Second Basketball Scouting Report: Lehigh
We are not that far away from the beginning of March and the arrival of the Patriot League Tournament. Navy will be a dangerous team in that event if it can continue to play well on offense. Everyone in the conference knows that the Midshipmen can defend; if this team can score in the high 60s or low 70s, it will be a tough out in a tournament situation. The goal for this team is clear: Maintain good habits on offense so that opponents will fear the Midshipmen come tournament time. If an opponent in any athletic contest enters the playing field with fear, such a reality can be worth a competitive advantage. Navy will try to build just such an edge before the Patriot League Tournament begins.
Lehigh's season of living on the edge has turned into a February in which volatile performances have become the norm. Eight of Lehigh's first 10 conference games this season were decided by four points or fewer, and only one of those 10 games was decided by more than seven. However, in the past week and a half, the Mountain Hawks have been involved in three blowouts, losing two of them. It's hard to know what to expect from this team, now 6-8 in the conference. This is a road game for Navy, but the Mountain Hawks are quite vulnerable at the moment.
Center – Tim Kempton – Freshman, 6-10, 225 2013-14: 13.1 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game
Kempton is feeling the weight of this season, not to mention the burden of being this team's primary low-post scorer. As you'll see below, the guards on this team are not improving as scorers, which makes Kempton's life more difficult in the paint. Developing a higher level of inside-outside balance – not just balance in itself, but improved levels of output from guards and bigs alike – must become one of Lehigh's central projects in this game and the coming weeks.
Forward – Jesse Chuku – Sophomore, 6-8, 225; 2013-14: 8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.4 blocked shots per game
Chuku's output has been fairly steady all season long, while many of his teammates have experienced greater fluctuations in their levels of output. This might seem like a value-positive statement, but when teammates are struggling, a starter needs to be able to raise his game in order to help the cause. Chuku hasn't quite done that, and as a result, Lehigh remains stuck in the middle of the Patriot League.
Guard – Austin Price – Freshman, 6-3, 175; 2013-14: 8.9 ppg, 2 rpg
Price has replaced teammate Shane Whitfield in the Lehigh lineup. His scoring average has slightly declined over the past several weeks, an unsurprising development for a first-year player who is learning how to pace himself and adjust to the rigors of the college game. As long as Navy makes Price take tough shots, it should feel that it is doing what's necessary to keep him under wraps.
Guard – Corey Schaefer – Junior, 6-1, 175; 2013-14: 8.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 assists per game
Schaefer's scoring average has declined nearly a full point (0.9 points per game) over the past two and a half weeks (since Feb. 1). When you realize that Lehigh has lost February games in which it has scored just 51 and 44 points, respectively (on Feb. 5 to Army and Feb. 12 to American University), it's not surprising that members of the starting five have not been shooting well recently.
Guard – Mackey McKnight – Senior, 6-0, 170; 2013-14: 13.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.5 steals per game
McKnight has lost nearly half a point from his scoring average since Feb. 1. This is the player who must thrive in order for the Mountain Hawks to give Kempton the freedom to maneuver in the low post. If McKnight is misfiring, Kempton will see even more doubleteams than he already does.
Head coach Brett Reed turns to forward Justin Goldsborough and guard Stefan Cvrkalj for production off the pine. Both players have evolved as scoring threats over the course of this season. They are more confident as shooters, but they are also facing more attention from opposing defenses, and that's part of why the Mountain Hawks have struggled at the offensive end of the floor the past two weeks. This is an important reality for Navy to keep in mind.
Keys to the Game
1) Focus on Kempton. Lehigh's backcourt isn't playing well, so attacking Kempton on defense should be the primary move for Navy head coach Ed DeChellis.
2) Ball movement. The Midshipmen played so well on offense against Colgate because they shared and moved the ball. A total of 19 assists on 25 made field goals represents outstanding ball movement. You'll also notice that Navy's shot selection was extremely good. The Midshipmen found a great mix of twos, threes (15 of them – not too many, but well-chosen when they were taken), and foul shots (19) against the Red Raiders. If a similar stat line can emerge against Lehigh, Navy should fancy its chances.
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