Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Game Recap: Cornell Falls at Lehigh

Below, recaps from Cornell's defeat at Lehigh on Monday night.


Box Score

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Reigning Patriot League Player of the Year C.J. McCollum hit his first two 3-pointers of the season in the second half, the last with 1:03 remaining on the clock for the go-ahead basket, to help defending conference champion Lehigh to a 60-57 win over defensing Ivy League champ Cornell on Monday evening at Stabler Arena. Cornell fell to 2-3 on the season, while the Mountain Hawks improved to 2-2.

McCollum ended the night with 20 points, 13 rebounds and four steals as the only Lehigh player in double figures in scoring as the Big Red defense held the Mountain Hawks to 30 percent shooting overall and 26 percent from beyond the arc. The home team's 30-10 edge in free-throw attempts made up the difference, as Cornell hit 10 treys in the loss.

Chris Wroblewski posted 14 points and four assists, while Drew Ferry notched 10 points, three assists and two steals for the Big Red. Errick Peck and Josh Figini each scored eight points, but Cornell committed a season-high 21 turnovers, including 14 in the first half alone. The Mountain Hawks also won the battle of the boards 40-36, including 16 big offensive rebounds.

The Big Red defense was again suffocating, but ending possessions with a defensive rebound continued to be a stuggle. Lehigh's starting backcourt shot just 2-of-15 from the floor, while McCollum was just 6-of-19.

Nothing went right for the Big Red in the first 20 minutes, as Cornell shot just 8-of-27 with 14 turnovers in the first half alone. Entering the game, the Big Red had a season high of 15 in a contest. Only the Big Red's strong defense allowed the visitors to stay with signle digits at the half. Cornell limited the Mountain Hawks to 8-of-24 shooting (33 percent) and 1-of-6 shooting from 3-point range (17 percent). Cornell was called for 12 fouls (5 vs. Lehigh) and attempted just two free-throws to 16 for the home team.

A pair of Big Red substitutes kept Cornell in the contest offensively, with Ferry hitting 3-of-5 shots for seven piints to go along with an assist and a steal, and Figini hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points in eight minutes. Cornell did hold a 20-16 edge on the backboards.

McCollum had eight points, five rebounds and two steals in the first half, while Jordan Hamilton scored seven points by hitting all three of his field goal attempts. Lehigh's starters were jusut 3-of-18 from the floor.

Lehigh used Cornell's uncharacteristically poor ball security to their advantage, leaping out to a 14-5 lead on the strength of nine Big Red turnovers in the first eight minutes. Ferry tried to get the Big Red ball rolling with consecutive baskets to get back within 14-9, but six straight points by the Mountain Hawks extended the lead to 20-9 11 minutes in. The Big Red offense couldn't get on track, as the turnover count had grown to 11 by the under-eight minute media timeout.

A 3-pointer by Figini, followed by a second less than a minute later, cut the deficit to 20-15. A third consecutive trey, this time by Ferry, caused Lehigh to burn a timeout with the lead down to 20-18 and 6:18 remaining in the first. Lehigh used more Big Red turnovers and a stagnant Cornell offense to extend the lead back to seven by halftime (30-23) by scoring the last four points of the half after the visitors had climbed back to with 26-23 with 2:49 left on the clock.

The Big Red missed its first shot of the second half, but Wire grabbed the offensive board and was fouled, burying both free-throws. That set the tone for the second half. A pair of Wroblewski 3-pointers, the second after Lehigh lost him in the corner on an inbounds, got Cornell within 32-31, but Ojo immediately answered it with a corner trey of his own to push the Lehigh lead back to 35-31.

Wire tied the game with a corner 3-pointer, Cornell's ninth of the game, to make it 41-41 with 13:52 remaining in the second half. The 10th of the game, a deep Wroblewski trey from 25 feet out top, gave Cornell its first lead (44-41) about a minute later. When Wroblewski found a streaking Coury after Gatlin's second block of the game for a layup, the Big Red took a 48-43 lead forcing a Mountain Hawk timeout with 10:32 remaining.

That layup by Coury would be Cornell's last basket until Errick Peck hit a nice driving layup on the baseline with 2:24 remaining, a span of 8:08 without making a shot. THat Peck layup gave Cornell a 53-52 edge, its last lead of the game. A pair of missed Lehigh shots turned into offensive rebounds, and a third chance put the ball in Gabe Knutson's hands. The starting forward hit the second of two free throws to knot the game, and after a missed shot in the lane and a turnover on consecutive possessions by the Big Red, McCollum hit the go-ahead trey. A pair of layups in the final minute were sandwiched around made Mountain Hawk free throws, giving Cornell a last shot at evening the game. Max Groebe's first attempt rimmed out and went to the wide right corner, where Drew Ferry picked it up and launched a desperation shot that hit the front of the rim and went off to give Lehigh the victory.

Cornell returns to action after the Thanksgiving holiday when it faces Boston University in Boston on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. at Case Gymnasium.


By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- On a night when new concerns popped up left and right, Cornell's one constant for 39 minutes Monday was team defense. But in crunch time, even that broke down.

Lehigh played better basketball for longer stretches, and rode the talents of C.J. McCollum -- the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year -- to a 60-57 victory over the Big Red at Stabler Arena.

McCollum, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds -- six offensive -- and snapped a 53-53 tie with a 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining to spur the Mountain Hawks (2-2), the defending Patriot League champions.

Cornell made McCollum work for everything he got. The super sophomore missed 13 of 19 shots and turned the ball over four times. He got one easy look from the perimeter the entire night -- on the go-ahead bucket.

He took possession of the ball, came off a high screen and found himself unexpectedly wide open. Cornell center Aaron Osgood was late to hedge, and McCollum exploited the breakdown.

"That was the last thing we said in the huddle," Cornell guard Chris Wroblewski said. "Really the only thing we said in the huddle before that timeout, before he hit that 3, was we can't let McCollum come off naked off that screen. We have to show hard and get it out of his hands. I'm not sure how it broke down there, but he got free."

Said Cornell coach Bill Courtney: "We just blew the assignment."

After that shot, Cornell scored twice to make it a one-point game. Each time, Lehigh had an answer -- including two Michael Ojo free throws with 13 seconds left.

Max Groebe and Drew Ferry both had 3-point attempts to tie, but each was contested and fell short off the rim. Cornell is now 2-3 heading into Saturday's game at Boston University, carrying the burden of consecutive losses decided by one possession.

Cornell committed an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers, 15 of them in an ugly first half. If not for good bench play from Ferry, Anthony Gatlin and Josh Figini, Cornell could have easily trailed by 20.

Lehigh scored 26 points off those 21 turnovers.

"We came out, we turned the ball over and dug ourselves a hole," Ferry said. "We fought our way back into it, and losing the last couple minutes, it's really tough to swallow. At some point, we have to be accountable for ourselves and get over that 'We're still coming together and learning' (mentality) and we've got to start seeing the results."

Cornell used an inspired 15-3 run to take its largest lead of the night, 48-43, with under 9 minutes to play. McCollum then put Lehigh on his back.

He tied the game at 48 with a 3-pointer, picked Groebe's pocket and converted the steal into a trip to the free throw line, and capped an 8-0 spurt with a third-effort layup inside.

"That's what great players do," Courtney said. "He wasn't particularly shooting the ball well, and we were giving him a lot of attention. He made the plays in that stretch. He won the game."

Lehigh led by as many as 11 in the first half, 20-9, after a pair of McCollum free throws. Cornell's starters were struggling, Wroblewski was sitting with two fouls and Courtney needed a spark.

Figini, a 6-9 sophomore, entered and hit back-to-back 3s. Ferry then drained his own 3 to force a Lehigh timeout. Figini finished with eight points in eight first-half minutes. He did not play in the second half.

Wroblewski scored 14 points, but committed eight turnovers. Groebe was held to a single point on 0-for-7 shooting.

Cornell endured a brutally long field goal drought down the stretch. After a Mark Coury layup gave the Big Red a 48-43 lead with 10:34 remaining, a full 8:10 went by before its next field goal.

"They did a great job; you've got to give them credit," Wroblewski said. "We're going to see a lot of defenses like that over the course of the year, that we'll be playing. We've got to be stronger mentally, physically and we have to know that we're going to make some runs, they're going to make some runs and we're going to be in some close games. Down the stretch we have to be more poised and we have to execute, and part of that is taking care of the ball."

Ferry said Courtney's pre-game speech focused on putting together a complete game. Instead, the Big Red played probably its most inconsistent game.

"We dug ourselves a big hole, and we just can't afford to do that," Ferry said. "We've got to come out more aggressive and take care of the ball."

Notes: One other Ivy League team played Monday night -- Princeton lost at James Madison, 65-64.



Four games into this season, Lehigh is struggling to find an offensive identity. New faces and new roles often lead to a stale offense.

Thankfully, coach Brett Reed has a pretty reliable option when the Mountain Hawks need a basket.

That option came up big Monday night.

Sophomore C.J. McCollum, fighting to find himself amid several strangers dressed as teammates, found his shot when teammates new and old needed him most.

McCollum came off a double screen to get an inbounds pass near midcourt, then drove to his left off another double screen, squared up and drilled a three-pointer with a minute left to give Lehigh the lead for good.

Michael Ojo made two free throws with 13 seconds and Lehigh survived two missed Cornell three-pointers in the final five seconds for a 60-57 win at Stabler Arena.

"He did what great players do," said Billy Courtney, a former Bucknell standout in his first year as Cornell's head coach. "That play killed us. We talked about denying him the ball [during the timeout]. But they found a way to get it to him."

McCollum fought his way through a 6-for-19 shooting night to score 20 points and grab a game-high 13 rebounds. Most of his misses came when the Mountain Hawks were searching for points and looking exclusively to their sophomore standout.

Reed said that is something that has be worked out before the Patriot League schedule arrives in January.

"We were very stagnant on offense," he admitted. "We were a little reluctant to move and pass the basketball, so as a result, C.J. is faced with a loaded defense. That's why we're not as efficient as we need to be."

Lehigh (2-2) was solid early, putting together a 15-4 run. McCollum's two free throws gave the Mountain Hawks a 20-9 cushion at 8:52 of the first half. But Cornell (2-3), after starting 3-of-15 from the field, made three consecutive three-pointers to pull within two.

The Hawks again stretched the lead to 40-33 on Ojo's three-pointer at the 16:49 mark of the second half. Again, the Big Red roared back with a 15-3 spurt. Mark Coury's fastbreak basket gave the visitors a 48-43 lead with 10:34 left.

However, defense kept Lehigh in the game. Cornell went the next 8:19 without a field goal.

Ojo's free throw gave Lehigh a 50-48 advantage at 3:20.

But, because the Hawks' offense wasn't much better than the Big Red's, Cornell quickly regained the lead on Errick Peck's fastbreak dunk at 2:15.

After a Gabe Knutson free throw tied it at 53 for Lehigh, the Hawks forced a missed shot and a turnover to get the ball back at the 1:24 mark.

Following the timeout, McCollum did his thing.

"I missed and forced some shots," the returning PL player of the year admitted. "I kind of forced the action. Because we were stagnant, I put it on myself to make something happen.

"Fortunately, I was able to make that one."

Peck again brought Cornell back with a basket at the 36-second mark for a 56-55 Lehigh lead. McCollum then beat Cornell's pressure and found a wide-open Jordan Hamilton for a layup with 26 seconds left.

Aaron Osgood responded for Cornell with 16 seconds left. Lehigh inbounded to Ojo, but Cornell made sure McCollum didn't get the ball back.

Ojo, after a Cornell timeout, made both free throws for a three-point Lehigh edge.

Max Groebe and Drew Ferry had three-point attempts for Cornell in the closing seconds, but came up empty.

Ojo had 11 points for Lehigh.

Chris Wroblewski, Cornell's only returning starter from last year's Sweet 16 team, had 14, but also had eight turnovers in 26 minutes.

"That's uncharacteristic of him," Courtney said. "He's still rusty. He missed three weeks [with an injury]. He's only been back four days and we've had three games."

Cornell committed 21 turnovers and Lehigh converted that into a 26-8 edge in points off turnovers.

McCollum had four of the Hawks' 11 steals.

Lehigh heads to Kent State on Thanksgiving morning for a Friday night game, before heading back to Stabler Arena for Sunday's home game with Bryant.

"It's very difficult to get comfortable with our lineup," Reed said. "Jordan and Justin [Maneri], who didn't play at Monmouth, gave us a great deal of energy tonight. I hope we can get everybody ready to play every night so we can establish a solid rotation."

It was Lehigh's first win over a returning Sweet 16 team in six tries.


By Kyle Craig
The Express-Times

BETHLEHEM | C.J. McCollum struggled shooting for most of Monday evening but with the game hanging in the balance, he hit the 3-pointer that helped seal Lehigh's 60-57 victory over Cornell at Stabler Arena.

"I know I missed a lot of shots and forced a lot of tough shots tonight but (Lehigh coach Brett Reed) still had confidence in me and I still had confidence in myself," McCollum said.

With the game tied 53-53 and 1:05 remaining in regulation, the Mountain Hawks took a timeout and designed a play to find last season's Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year.

The sophomore guard found an open look off a screen and knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game. Moments later, after a Cornell basket brought the Big Red within a point, McCollum found junior forward Jordan Hamilton, who converted an open layup to make the score 58-55.

After another Cornell score and two free throws by Lehigh guard Michael Ojo pushed the score to 60-57, Cornell's Drew Ferry missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. McCollum finished with a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds despite a 6-for-19 performance from the field as Mountain Hawks made just 30.2 percent of their field goals.

"We were very stagnant on offense," Reed said. "We look to C.J. probably a little bit too much. He has the ability to deliver for us, we're aware of that, and we certainly want to capitalize on his talent but he cannot do it alone."

McCollum's effort rebounding helped compensate for his poor shooting. On one possession, with over six minutes remaining and Lehigh (2-2) protecting a one-point lead, McCollum missed two shot attempts, rebounded each of his misses, and converted a layup.

"I just tried to play as hard as I could and do whatever was necessary to help our team win," said McCollum, who had six offensive rebounds. "We're not the biggest group in terms of the interior, so I just try to help out on the rebounding."

While Lehigh's offense wasn't in sync from the field, the Mountain Hawks made the most of their opportunities from the foul line. Lehigh went 23-for-30 from the line, outscoring a Cornell team that had nine points off of free throws.

"That definitely helped us out, especially coming off the loss at Monmouth where we lost a lot of points at the free throw line," said Ojo of the team's foul line proficiency. "We really wanted to put an emphasis on making our free throws and just getting all the points that we could get."

The Mountain Hawks also took advantage of mistakes by Cornell (2-3), turning 21 turnovers by the Big Red into 26 points. Ojo finished with 11 points while Hamilton contributed nine points and grabbed seven rebounds for Lehigh.

Cornell's leading scorer, Chris Wroblewski, was limited due to foul trouble but helped keep the Big Red in the game with his 3-point shooting in the second half. The junior guard went 4-for-7 from behind the arc and finished with a team-high 14 points.

Lehigh's victory is its eighth consecutive in Stabler Arena and is the first time this century that the Mountain Hawks have defeated a team that had reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in the year prior.

The Mountain Hawks return to action on Friday when they travel to Kent State.

CORNELL (57)

Osgood 1-5 2-2 4, Wire 2-3 2-2 7, Wroblewski 4-9 2-2 14, Groebe 0-7 1-2 1, Asafo-Adjei 0-3 0-0 0, Peck 3-10 2-2 8, Gatlin 1-1 0-0 3, Ferry 4-7 0-0 10, Matthews 0-0 0-0 0, Gray 0-3 0-0 0, Figini 3-5 0-0 8, Coury 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 19-54 9-10 57.

LEHIGH (60)

Adams 0-3 0-0 0, Knutson 1-3 1-2 3, McCollum 6-19 6-10 20, McKnight 0-6 6-6 6, Ojo 2-9 5-6 11, D'Orazio 2-3 0-0 4, Small 0-1 3-4 3, Keefer 0-0 0-0 0, Maneri 1-1 2-2 4, Safstrom 0-0 0-0 0, Hamilton 4-8 0-0 9. Totals 16-53 23-30 60.

Halftime--Lehigh 30-23. 3-Point Goals--Cornell 10-25 (Wroblewski 4-7, Figini 2-2, Ferry 2-4, Gatlin 1-1, Wire 1-1, Gray 0-2, Asafo-Adjei 0-2, Groebe 0-6), Lehigh 5-19 (McCollum 2-5, Ojo 2-7, Hamilton 1-3, D'Orazio 0-1, McKnight 0-1, Adams 0-2). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Cornell 36 (Wire 8), Lehigh 40 (McCollum 13). Assists--Cornell 16 (Wroblewski 4), Lehigh 10 (McKnight 3). Total Fouls--Cornell 24, Lehigh 13. A--767.


Lehigh-Cornell Box Score

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Sophomore C.J. McCollum hit a clutch three-pointer with just over a minute remaining to put the Mountain Hawks up for good as the Lehigh men’s basketball team (2-2) pulled out a thrilling 60-57 victory over defending Ivy League Champion and Sweet 16 participant Cornell on Wednesday. McCollum finished with his fifth-career double-double and second in as many home games, while senior Michael Ojo chipped in with 11 points, including nine in the second half.

“This is a good win for us,” said head coach Brett Reed. “Cornell still has a great identity from its postseason run a year ago. Tonight was a testament to our defensive intensity, forcing turnovers and playing with energy. If we play with the defensive intensity we need to, it will put us in good position to close out tight games, even when our offense is not performing.”

The Mountain Hawks forced 21 turnovers, the team’s most since forcing 26 on Dec. 11, 2006 against Haverford.

“Our focus in the first half was excellent with our defensive intensity and defending the three,” said Reed. “We were a little complacent with defending the three early in the second half. We were very stagnant on offense and a little reluctant to move the basketball. We continued to force it [too much].”

McCollum’s double-double came on 20 rebounds and a career-high tying 13 rebounds, with an incredible six of those boards via the offensive glass. Junior Jordan Hamilton impressed with nine points to tie a career-high while freshman Mackey McKnight added six to go with a team-high three assists.

The win also improved Lehigh’s home winning streak to eight games dating back to last season.

Lehigh used a balanced offensive attack - with five different players scoring over the game’s first 8:03 - to go up by nine (14-5) with 11:57 on the clock. The Mountain Hawks extended their lead to as much as 20-9, which included freshman Anthony D’Orazio hitting a jumper to become the sixth Lehigh player to get on the board.

Cornell used a quick 9-0 run on a trio of three-pointers, taking only 2:29 to trim an 11-point Lehigh lead to 20-18 with 6:23 on the first half clock. The Mountain Hawks bounced back, however, to extend their lead back to 30-23 at the half.

The Big Red came out of the locker room with eight of the next 10 points to pull within 32-31 less than two minutes into the second half. The Mountain Hawks again pulled ahead by seven after Michael Ojo’s first three-pointer of the night made it 40-33 with 16:51 to go.

Cornell made one last charge and staged a 15-3 run to eventually pull ahead by as much as five (48-43) with 10:34 left on the clock. Both teams went scoreless for the next 2:49 before junior Justin Maneri, who saw key minutes off the bench, hit two free throws to pull within three.

McCollum hit his first big three-pointer - and first trifecta of the season - with 7:22 remaining to tie the score at 48. That sparked the Mountain Hawks as they pulled back ahead by as much as three, a lead they would hold onto down the stretch. McCollum’s second three-pointer from the top of the key with only 1:03 left on the clock broke a 53-53 tie to put Lehigh up for good.

“It’s extra effort to get the offensive rebounds, which makes [C.J.] a unique scorer,” said Reed. “You look down at the stat sheet and wonder how he gets all his points. He has the ability to score in so many ways, which makes him so effective.”

Lehigh won despite only shooting 30 percent (16-for-53) from the field and 26 percent (5-for-19) from three-point range. Cornell finished at 35 percent (19-for-54) and 40 percent (10-for-25) from long range. The Mountain Hawks also got to the line 30 times, hitting on 23 of them.

Lehigh hits the road on Friday to face defending Mid-American Regular Season Champion Kent State before returning home on Sunday to host Bryant University at 7 p.m. Tickets for all home games are now on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.








Patriot League Sports

Center Valley, Pa. - A matchup of the defending champions of the Patriot League and Ivy League went Lehigh's way on Monday evening, as the Mountain Hawks claimed a 60-57 victory at home against Cornell.

***

Lehigh (2-2) received a huge game from preseason Patriot League Player of the year C.J. McCollum, who recorded his fifth-career double-double with 20 points and a career-high tying 13 rebounds. Lehigh built 11-point lead early in the first half, but Cornell quickly rallied and the game went back-and-forth for most of the evening. With the score tied at 53, McCollum buried a three-pointer with 1:03 left to play to put the Mountain Hawks in front for good. Cornell twice cut the deficit to one point, but Lehigh answered each time with a layup by Jordan Hamilton and a pair of Michael Ojo free throws, which were the last two points of the game with 13 seconds left. Cornell had a pair of three-point attempts to tie the score in the final seconds, but both were off the mark. Ojo scored 11 and Hamilton added nine as Lehigh won its eighth consecutive home game.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP)—C.J. McCollum scored 20 points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds as Lehigh held on to beat Cornell 60-57 on Monday night.

The Mountain Hawks (2-2) only shot 16 for 53 from the floor (30.2 percent), but established a 30-23 halftime lead thanks to 13-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line (81 percent).

Lehigh’s 7-point halftime margin, 30-23, proved to be enough as the Big Red outscored the Mountain Hawks 34-30 in the second, but it wasn’t enough.

Cornell (2-3) shot 5 for 11 from 3-point range (45.5 percent) in the second half.

Chris Wroblewski led the Big Red with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc (57.1 percent). Drew Ferry had 10 points off the bench for Cornell.

Michael Ojo added 11 points for Lehigh and was the only other Mountain Hawk besides McCollum in double figures.

By Chris A. Courogen
Hoop Time Online

The defending champions of the Patriot and Ivy leagues squared off Monday night in Lehigh’s Stabler Arena, but there was precious little of either team’s title pedigree on display in Lehigh’s 60-57 win.

That should come as no surprise. Cornell (2-3) graduated eight seniors from the team that won the school’s third straight Ivy championship and made a run to the Sweet 16 in March.

Almost 75 percent of last year’s scoring and two-thirds of the Big Red’s rebounding graduated. Junior guard Chris Wroblewski is the only returning starter. Only two of three other guys entered the season with any significant game experience.

Lehigh (2-2), the defending Patriot League champions, are in similar straits. The Mountain Hawks have two starters back. But even without looking at the roster, which features a half dozen sophomores and four new freshmen, the faces of the Lehigh lineup would tell you how young the Hawks are.,

At least half the team looks as though it would need little more than a rough washcloth to keep their cheeks smooth.

But the Mountain Hawks do have C.J. McCollum back, and Monday night last season’s Patriot League rookie and player of the year proved to be the difference. Him, and the Mountain Hawks 30 trips to the free throw line.

Lehigh made 23 of those freebies, piling up a 14-point edge at the charity stripe on Cornell, which was 9-for-10 there. On a night where neither team shot very well, that proved to be enough to overcome the 10 threes by the Big Red, who actually made one less shot inside the arc than it did from outside.

The free throw shooting kept Lehigh ahead most of the way, holding Cornell at bay until McCollum, who finished with 20-points and 13-rebounds for the fifth double-double of his young career, got going late to seal the deal.

It was one of the ugliest dub-dubs you will ever see. McCollum was 6 for 19 from the field and turned the ball over 4 times. That doesn’t count occasions when he held the ball until late in the shot clock, looking to beat his man one-on-one, resulting in a poor Lehigh look and an empty possession.

“I forced the action a couple of times when I shouldn’t have,” said McCollum. “I felt like my team needed a bucket and I kind of took it on myself.”

McCollum doesn’t get all the blame.

“We were very stagnant on offense,” said Lehigh coach Dr. Brett Reed. “We were reluctant to move around the floor without the ball.”

The result was a 16-for-53 (30.2 percent) effort from the field by the Mountain Hawks, who were hardly the only team to struggle in the halfcourt.

Cornell turned the ball over 14 times in the first half and shot just 29.6 percent from the floor. If not for a brief flurry of four straight 3-pointers that accounted for 12 of the Big Red’s 23 first half points, it might have been over at halftime.

Then again, Lehigh’s 8-for-24 first half shooting was hardly the stuff needed when you want to put away a struggling road team early.

The Big Red came out bombing in the second half, knocking down 5 treys in the first 10 minutes while Lehigh continued to struggle from the field. The Mountain Hawks hit just 4 of their first 18 after the break. Three of those came in a quick 8-0 flurry where Michael Ojo wrapped a pair of 3-pointers around McCollum’s only bucket in the first 12:40 of the half.

Then McCollum hit a three-pointed to knot the score at 48-48 with 7:20 to go.

At the other end he came up with a steal, then went coast-to-coast, resulting in a trip to the foul line, where he made 1 of 2 to give Lehigh the lead. A minute later he made the play that typified the kind of night he had.

McCollum missed a three, but chased down his own rebound. He missed the follow, but stayed after it, coming up with another offensive rebound. On his third shot of the possession, McCollum finally managed to make it fall.

Those were two of six offensive rebounds for McCollum and two of 16 for the Mountain Hawks, who only managed 6 second chance points, but were able to slow Cornell’s running game with the offensive boards.

“They killed us on the offensive boards – especially McCollum,” said first-year Cornell coach Bill Courtney, a former all-Patriot point guard at Bucknell. “That is what great players do. He wasn’t shooting it well, but he made the plays. He hit the big shots, he got the offensive rebounds.”

The biggest shot McCollum hit came a short time later, after he missed two shots and turned it over twice the next few times he touched the ball.

Even though he was struggling all night, with the score tied at 53-53 and just over a minute to play, Reed ran McCollum off a couple screens on a sideline inbounds following a timeout and his star made the coach look like and X-and-O genius by burying a three from the top left side of the arc.

“Coach just put the ball in my hands,” said McCollum. “I missed a lot of shots tonight, but he had confidence in me.”

As Reed pointed out, he really didn’t have a lot of other options. His second best scorer, senior guard Michael Ojo, struggled all night. Aside from the two corner threes mentioned earlier, Ojo didn’t make another of the 9 shots he took (though he went 5-for-6 at the foul line, including 2 with 13.5 to play that sealed the win, finishing with 11 points).

“We’re not equipped to encourage him not to do too much at times,” said Reed.

After the big three, McCollum did have a key unselfish moment, beating a double team near midcourt with a long bounce pass to a wide open Jordan Hamilton, who was camped out down on the right block.

Following Ojo’s free throws, Cornell had two tough looks from the arc to tie it in the final seconds, but could not connect, allowing Lehigh to escape with the win.

BOX SCORE


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