Lehigh Upsets Rutgers, 76-71

Rutgers lost to Lehigh last night, 76-71. This was the first victory for Lehigh over RU since 1967 and the first Lehigh win at Rutgers since February 28th, 1962. Other than Corey Chandler, who played his best game of the year, and Greg Echenique, who was solid once again, there wasn't much else that was positive about this game. There's no way to sugarcoat it - this was a bad loss for RU.

Corey Chandler turned in his best performance of the year, and perhaps is getting himself back on track. He led Rutgers in scoring with 15 points, and showed flashes of brilliance once again. He wasn't too out of control most of the time. Greg Echenique shot 50%, making half of his 8 attempts, and pulled down a team-high 9 rebounds. There you have the lone Rutgers highlights from what has to be one of the most dreadful nights in the long history of a program that has had its share of them.

Lehigh came to town last night and came away with its first victory since John F Kennedy was the president. Rutgers did not even lead in this game until Corey Chandler hit a three-pointer to put RU up 59-57 with 7:26 left in the second half. Lehigh deserved to win this game. Their point guard Marquis Hall looked like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas rolled into one last night. He scored a game-high 28 points, pulled down an astonishing 15 rebounds, and also dished out 5 assists.

"He was outstanding tonight", said Rutgers coach Fred Hill of Hall. "He made some unbelievably tough shots". Hill went on, addressing his own team's deficiencies: "Rebounding the basketball, we have to get better. There is no excuse for that. Our guards aren't doing a good job of blocking out. We talk about that. Your defense starts with your guards, and we've done a good job of that before. But tonight, it was little bit of us and a little bit of him (Hall). Give him credit – he took a lot of tough shots, but it was his getting to the free throw line that killed us".

Lehigh was able to get out in transition offense frequently in the first half, and that helped propel them into a 38-31 halftime lead. Said Hill: "We've been up and down in transition defense. We're good in some games, but going into the Robert Morris game I thought our transition defense was very bad, but in the Robert Morris game I thought it was very good. Against St. Bonaventure I thought it was OK, but tonight in the first half we gave up too many points".

Hill went on, speaking about his teams inconsistencies, saying that "we can't shoot 41% from the free throw line in the first half". RU turned around its free throw shooting in the second half, making 12 out of 14 for nearly 86%, but it would not be enough. Rutgers could not put together any kind of consistent effort, and even when they finally took the lead, they could not sustain it. Said Hill: "I thought we had an opportunity. We got up, we forced them again to miss a shot, and on one possession they got three offensive rebounds and put a layup in to go back ahead of us".

"So those are the things we talk about", he said. "When you have the opportunity to make a big stop, make a big play, you've got to step up and do it". However, enough big plays were not to be found for Rutgers last night. Perhaps RU fans will have to console themselves with the word from Lehigh Head Coach Brett Reed, who said: "This was a wonderful win for our team and program. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rutgers, the way they are developing their program, and the progress they have made over recent years".

Well Rutgers fans, he was the coach who orchestrated the win last night, so if a guy like that said that, it surely must be true.


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