In the past couple of weeks, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks have quietly emerged as a top contender in the Patriot League. Last time out, however, they saw their four-game winning streak come to an end with a road loss against the Holy Cross Crusaders. After losing four of their first five Patriot League games, Lehigh had reeled off seven wins in eight games before the loss to the Crusaders.
On Wednesday night, Lehigh was looking to bounce back and take advantage of a Navy Midshipmen team who has had its fair share of ups and downs in 2014-15. The Midshipmen opened conference play with three wins in their first four games, but have since had trouble finding traction in the Patriot League. With a talented roster, the lack of success for the Midshipmen comes as a bit of a shock.
Both teams were looking to regain some positive momentum, but only ome team would be able to come out on top. Navy took a six-point lead into the break, but were unable to hold off the Mountain Hawks in the second half. Lehigh was able to score a 59 – 53 road victory over the Midshipmen inside Alumni Hall on Wednesday night.
The game started out perfect for the Midshipmen. Navy went on a 10 – 4 run to open the game, keeping the Mountain Hawks at bay for over ten minutes. Worth Smith helped Navy push the lead to 17 – 8 with just over 7 minutes to play in the half, scoring seven straight points for Navy.
Smith accounted for 9 of the Midshipmen’s first 18 points in the contest.
A pair of Austin Price free throws would bring Lehigh back to within four points with a little over 3 minutes to play in the half. A pair of three pointers from Bryce Dulin and Smith pushed the Navy lead back to 10 in a blink of an eye.
Jesse Chuku would make a three pointer of his own for Lehigh in the closing seconds to send the Mountain Hawks into the break with some positive momentum. Still, Navy held a 26 – 20 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
The second half opened with Lehigh playing with the momentum that they gained at the end of the first half. Within the first 2:02 of the second half, Lehigh had erased Navy’s lead, and had taken a slim one-point lead of their own. Austin Price capped off the hot start with a three pointer that gave Lehigh a 29 – 28 lead.
A pair of Corey Schaefer free throws a little later on would push their lead to seven points, and it looked as though the Mountain Hawks were well on their way to another victory in conference play. Navy hung around, kept chipping away at the lead, and eventually regained the lead for a short while. Tilman Dunbar would record a layup to give the Midshipmen a 46 – 42 lead with 7:32 left to play in the game.
It was now Lehigh’s turn to make a comeback, and they did just that. A Kahron Ross layup gave Lehigh a 48 – 46 lead, and the team never looked back from there on out. Strong free throw down the stretch allowed Lehigh to stake a claim to the lead, and Navy would never take a lead of their own the rest of the way.
When the final buzzer went off, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks scored a come-from-behind 59 – 53 win over the Navy Midshipmen in Annapolis, MD.
The visiting Lehigh Mountain Hawks benefitted from big-time performances from their key contributors on Wednesday night. Kahron Ross led the way for Lehigh, scoring a team-high 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds in the win. Tim Kempton chipped in with 12 points and 6 rebounds, while Jesse Chuku came off the bench to add 12 points and 7 rebounds of his own to help lead the Mountain Hawks to victory.
As for the Navy Midshipmen, big performances from Worth Smith and Tilman Dunbar went to waste, as the team was unable to hang onto their half-time lead. Smith scored a game-high 19 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Dunbar added 13 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds in defeat.
With the win, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (15 – 11, 9 – 6) are alone in third place in the conference standings, sitting just two games out of first with three games to go. The Mountain Hawks take on Lafayette in their next time out, before taking on the top two teams in the conference (Bucknell and Colgate) to close out the regular season.
The loss was the fourth in six games for the Navy Midshipmen (10 – 17, 6 – 9). The injury to star guard Brandon Venturini has hurt the team on both ends of the floor, and they have yet to find any source of consistent replacement for him. They will look to bounce back when they welcome Holy Cross to town this weekend.