Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lehigh Weekend: From Exams to A Must-Win Game?

Lehigh returns to the hardwood this weekend after a twelve day layoff for final exams. On the men's side, the 3-5 Mountain Hawks (Real Time RPI: 198) have the quintessential trap game against 2-6 Dartmouth (Real Time RPI: 311) tonight at 7:00 PM at Stabler Arena (that will also be broadcast online courtesy of Yahoo! Broadcast).

LU65 on the Lehigh Sports Forum has done such a good analysis of the game, I'm just going to reprint it here:

There can never be a "must win" game in OOC play, right? Well, this one comes close. Lehigh has dropped its last three (one excusably to Dayton, one we could have had against Columbia in well played game and the other a truly awful effort in a 19 point loss to Stony Brook) after winning three in a row and beginning the year with two other losses to solid programs in Richmond and Rider. Now, it's time we got back on track and formed an identity - especially on defense - against a team who was picked to finish at the bottom of the Ivy League and is off to a 1-6 start (2-6 if you include their win five nights ago to D-II Lyndon State).

The Big Green can't score; we can, out-pointing the them 69.8 to 57.2 ppg. Dartmouth has broken through the .400 FG% barrier but once this season - that against Hartford. No one on the team averages in double digits. Their starting forwards, sophomore F David Rufful and sophomore F Josh Riddle, hit just 39% of their shots. Their starting center, 6'9" junior F Chris Weeden, connects on only 41% of his attempts. He bears watching, however, especially on the offensive glass where he has recorded nearly as many boards as on defense - fully 45% of his team-leading rebound total come while on offense. They seem to have but one three-point threat on their team and that's their 6'1" sophomore G Jabari Trotter, who strokes it at .423 from long-range. He has hit double-digits four times this year - including a 16 point performance against D-II Lyndon State - and certainly bears watching.
(If you follow this link, there is even more.)

No word if senior F Zahir Carrington, who has been nursing a leg injury, will be playing after missing the last three games. If he's not available, it will be up to senior G Marquis Hall (9.9 ppg, 6.4 apg) to try to carry the team on his back for the victory. Two revelations have been invaluable for the Hawks since Carrington's injury: freshman G C.J. McCollum (13.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg) and freshman F Gabe Knutson (6.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) to make up the rebounding and scoring load. The silver lining is that Carrington's injury has allowed a bevy of underclassmen invaluable playing time - which might give Lehigh depth they haven't had in years.

But it's a "trap game" since Dartmouth, like Army, is a "mudder". Lehigh in the past has struggled against teams that have forced them to play plodding, low-tempo games - and especially Hall. Crucial to Lehigh's chances of victory is the ability to get Hall heated up - and playing at a higher tempo than the Big Green would like.

That's crucial, too, with a tough slate ahead. A-10 powerhouse St. Joe's (3-6, Real Time RPI: 113) looms this coming Sunday before a very winnable home game against Marist (0-7, Real Time RPI: 343) on Wednesday. It's important to come away 2-1 - and maybe, with a little luck, 3-0 - out of these three tough games in six days.

*****

The women's team, who are riding high after soaring to a 7-2 start (Real Time RPI: 50), hope to keep the good times rolling with a pair of games against sub-.500 teams. Quite simply, with wins over a Big East team (Villanova, 6-2, Real Time RPI: 91) and an Atlantic 10 team (Duquesne, 9-3, Real Time RPI: 119), these Lady Hawks are looking to build on last year's Patriot League Women's basketball title, not just compete. Considering both those wins came to preserve the Lady Hawks' 17 game home winning streak, you can't say Lehigh is padding the home schedule with patsies. (In fact, their only two defeats came on the road to Top 100 RPI programs: SEC powerhouse Vanderbilt (9-1, Real Time RPI: 55) and Ivy League leader Princeton (7-2, Real Time RPI: 87)).

Lehigh's amazing Lady Hawks are led by the incredible 1-2 guard combo of junior G Erica Prosser (17.1 ppg, 8 assists vs. Duquesene) and senior G Alex Ross (13.2 ppg), but that doesn't tell the whole story. Sophomore F Emily Gratch (10.2 ppg) , junior F Courtney Dentler (9.6 ppg, 5,1 rpg), senior G Tricia Smith (6.1 rpg) and sophomore C Alexa Williams off the bench (7.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg) give the Lady Hawks a deep team with a lot of rebounding to go with the high-scoring guards.

3-5 NJIT (Real Time RPI: 256) might have matchup problems with Prosser, though like Lehigh they have a credible outside scoring threat (junior G Jessica Gerald) and a fairly string inside presence with junior F Ivana Seric (9.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Still, with a (hopefully) raucous home crowd, one would hope that Lehigh can make it 22 straight at home.

On Sunday, the Lady Hawks will travel to Rhode Island to take on 3-6 Bryant (Real Time RPI: 314). Of course, statistics don't win basketball games, but with the top performers on the Lady Bulldogs being junior F Siamone Bennett (12.0 ppg, 7.7. rpg) and senior F/G Kelsey O'Keefe (10.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg), on paper, at least, the Lady Hawks look odds-on to win on the road once again.

All the home games will be broadcasting live video on lehighsports.com, and the Lady Hawks' game versus Bryant will be available through Presto Sports on Bryant's website (which may be for a fee, I'm not sure.) The Lehigh/St. Joe's clash will be available at least with live audio on lehighsports.com.

No comments: