Give the Mountain Hawk basketball team some credit: undermanned in Stabler Arena against the defending Patriot League champions, they had a chance to come away with the biggest victory of the season. But the 13-9 men's hoopsters (Real Time RPI: 225) ultimately couldn't overcome a dismal 18.8% shooting percentage from 3-point range and fell 66-58 to first-placed 15-7 American (Real Time RPI: 85). An early season full of possibilities may be rapidly becoming one of "wait 'til next year".
Junior F Zahir Carrington, with 20 points and 11 boards, is clearly one of the premier players in the Patriot League with performances like these. Sophomore G Rob Keefer also stepped up with 12 points, while junior G Marquis Hall added three steals and four assists - but it was defense (allowing 44.2% shooting for American for the game) and rebounding (losing the battle of the boards 36-30) which did in Lehigh on Saturday.
And the road gets no easier with a trip to Annapolis to face 16-7 Navy (Real Time RPI: 130) this weekend. A win here, quite frankly, would be an upset: with a 2-3 record in their last five games, including a couple of cardiac wins over 5-18 Bucknell and 6-17 Lafayette, confidence isn't exactly running high.
With a golden opportunity to make a statement at the top of the Patriot League women's basketball standings, the 17-6 Lady Hawks (Real Time RPI: 92) lost a tough game on the road to 16-7 American (Real Time RPI: 101) 65-56. In front of a national television audience on ESPNU, you got the distinct impression that this wasn't going to be the last time these two teams square off this year.
Down 55-48 midway through the second half, it was a tough 5 point swing that ultimately the Lady Hawks couldn't overcome: a turnover turned into a 3 pointer by Talicia Jackson, followed by a missed layup converted to points on the other end by Liz Leer made it a 12 point deficit that ultimately was too tough to overcome. Like on the men's side, it was not enough perimiter defense, allowing 50% shooting in the second half, despite sophomore G Erica Prosser's "customary" 15 point, 4 assist game, junior G Alex Ross' 11 points and 3 rebounds, and the gritty effort of junior F Courtney Molinaro with 10 points and 9 boards.
Now a logjam, with 6-2 Lehigh and American tied atop the Patriot League, followed closely by 5-3 Holy Cross and Navy - and even tough teams Bucknell and Army looming at 4-4 - all signs point to an interesting close to the regular season. Finally back home after a brutal 3-game road trip, this Wendesday sees the Patriot League-leading Lady Hawks take on 12-11 Navy (Real Time RPI: 229) in a big game. Lehighsports.com will be televising the game.
Lehigh's grapplers came close to stumbling against Bucknell, but the No. 7-ranked wrestling team ended up taking care of Bucknell to bring their dual record to an amazing 20-1. It ended up coming down to No. 9-ranked junior 184 lb David Craig's major decision to wrap up Lehigh's victory. It came after a split of the two bouts against ranked competitiors, with No. 15-ranked junior 133 lb Matt Fisk beating No. 20-ranked David Marble by an 8-2 decision, while No. 13-ranked junior 165 lb Mike Galante fell to No. 15-ranked Bucknellian Andy Rendos.
Two more weekends of duals remain before the EIWA championships, in which there is an excellent chance that we place five wrestlers or more in nationals. Heady times for Lehigh wrestling - even if we did almost slip up against Bucknell this past weekend.