Friday, January 16, 2009

Lehigh Men's Hoops Desperate to Avoid 3-Game Slide

(Photo Credit: Bill Adams/The Easton Express-Times)

Perhaps if junior G Marquis Hall looked more like he does in this photo than the brick-layer he's appeared in the last three games, perhaps followers of Lehigh Basketball wouldn't be in a near-panic that their historic season is getting away from them.

But Hall's play in the last three games has been a key part of Lehigh's three-game losing streak - and he'll need to heat back up this Saturday in what has become a must win game against a 4-12 Army team at 7:00 PM Saturday night at Stabler Arena.

It's not just me that has been noticing, as Andre Williams of the Allentown Morning Call has also been saying that it's time for Lehigh to go back to the drawing board.

It's time for Lehigh men's coach Brett Reed to go back to the drawing board to quickly figure out how he can turn around a season that has gone from promising to upsetting after three straight defeats.

Lehigh has a bad tendency to play inconsistently over long stretches and Reed now has to find out how to correct the lapses before the Hawks -- picked to finish second in the league's preseason poll -- fall into too deep of a hole.

As Reed and his staff continue to teach, wins also need to mount and Hall (1-or-8 for three points against Navy) cannot struggle in big games if Lehigh is to contend for the Patriot League regular-season title.

It may seem unfair to put the blame for all of the losing streak on Hall for all three losses - one an obvious "tweener" game at Princeton, and two league opponents in American and Navy that were never going to be easy, with both going down to the wire.

But Hall's decline in production, as Williams pointed out, was a key ingredient in all three losses - especially considering that junior F Zahir Carrington has been a monster in those games, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. Expanding on Williams' point, Hall's shooting in his last three games have been abysmal: 8 for 33 shooting, or 24% shooting. More amazingly, 7 of those 8 shots were 3-point attempts: meaning inside the arc the last three games, Hall is 1 for 15.

That's not a recipie for winning games.

Looking at records, for 10-6 Lehigh (Real Time RPI: 222), it would seem that 4-12 Army (Real Time RPI: 333) would be just what the doctor ordered. However, the Black Knights have had a history of posing the Mountain Hawks, especially in Stabler where Army has eliminated Lehigh from the Patriot League tournament two years running. They're not going to win any style contests for scoring, led by junior F Cleveland Richard's 10 points per game, but if they manage to lure Lehigh into playing a plodding, physical style, they could easily come away with a win this weekend.

Other goings on this weekend:

* The wrestling team, No. 8 in the nation and 15-1 in duals this year, travel to Annaoplis, MD to grapple with Navy in a key EIWA dual this Saturday at 7:00PM. Lehigh may get lucky, as two of Navy's top-ranked wrestlers may be out due to injury - but all eyes will certainly be on a couple of big matchups between nationally-ranked wrestlers: at 149, No. 14-ranked senior Trevor Chinn will go against No. 5-ranked Bryce Saddoris, and at 174, No. 14-ranked sophomore Alex Caruso may go against No. 19-ranked Luke Robertus. Should be a challenging match.

* If there's any justice in the world, the 13-4 Lady Hawks' (Real Time RPI: 104) Sunday game against 10-6 Army (Real Time RPI: 176) would be pushed up to a 1:00 PM start instead of a 3:00 PM start. (I wonder why?) This matchup between two of the best women's basketball teams in the Patriot League would be the perfect lead-in to, well, that NFL game that is scheduled.

The Lady Hawks, who survived a scare against 7-10 Navy this week, have changed their game from being guard-dominated to getting things done in the paint. Sure, sophomore G Erica Prosser continued to shine with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assits, but also senior F Haly Crites (9 points, 9 boards) and sophomore F Courtney Dentler (11 points) have given Lehigh a presence in the middle that have looked formidable in the last few games.

Until the Patriot League honors my request to have the game time changed, though, I'll have to settle for firing up the laptop to listen to the game on LehighSports.com for scoring updates while the Eagles are on. Unless the NFL honors my request to have their game time changed... but somehow, I'm doubting it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recruiting Update: Will Matt Simms Transfer to Lehigh?

It's the heat of football recruiting season, and slowly but surely the list of potential incoming freshmen at Lehigh next fall are trickling in. But it's actually a rumored potential transfer - and an unconfirmed one at that - that is proving to be the most interesting.

You may have heard that the son of a Morehead State quarterback alumnus - more well known as Phil Simms, Super Bowl MVP for the New York Giants and current NFL commentator for CBS - is transferring.

That would be Louisville redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Simms, who attended the high school powerhouse Don Bosco in New Jersey and is escaping a logjam at quarterback with the Cardinals. Simms had a memorable time in Louisville for all the wrong reasons, starting his career with a four game suspension for "violating team rules" (click on the link to see what it is) and getting a lot of hate from the Louisville fan base after exactly one game in mop-up duty against Pittsburgh. This is in addition to flipping St Peter's fans the bird in the state championship game in New Jersey in 2006.

Some think that "bad-boy" Simms might be best served by going the junior college route, but one source on the Lehigh message board said the following:

Ok here's the story. Understand I know nobody, have no "sources" and read but am not a poster here. I am an LU grad and fan of the team. My dad works at Showtime and in talking to Phil he mentiontoned(sic) to him that should he consider 1AA he will have LU on that list.

Like the poster here, I have no inside information in regards to his (or his father's) interest in his coming to Lehigh to play quarterback. I also don't know if he's academically qualified to become a Mountain Hawk, nor do I know if Matt Simms is ready to "grow up" - since he'd undoubtedly need to do so in order to remain a student at Lehigh. I do know that sophomore QB J.B. Clark just finished a pretty good season this year, and Simms certainly wouldn't be given the starting quarterback position based on his last name alone - he has to work and beat a very good quarterback to become the starter. Conceivably, he wouldn't be the starter until Clark graduates, which (barring injuries) would be Simms' senior year.

But there seems to be just enough to this rumor - a Don Bosco star from New Jersey, a Louisville alumnus on the coaching staff that might just have an in with the Cardinals (linebackers coach Matt Sanders) - and a kid that may need a second chance at an FCS school - that it's worth repeating here.

Might we be seeing Matt Simms in the Brown & White? Stay tuned.

*************

On the recruiting front, the first Lehigh commit has hit the papers: and it's a product from the coal region that Schylkill Haven fans are raving about.

It's RB Zach Barket, who verbally committed to Lehigh just yesterday.

If you read the article, most of the focus is on the fact that Barket was robbed of a spot on the coveted "Big 33" and PSFCA postseason teams, despite the career totals of the 5' 10, 205 lb running back bordering on the ridiculous.

Try 4,195 yards and 66 touchdowns. And that's not for a career. Thats in a single season.

He's a huge get for Lehigh, maybe as big as freshman RB Nate Eachus' signing at Colgate last year. Barket has an impressive statewide trophy case, including Gatorade’s Pennsylvania Player of the Year Award, the Old Spice Red Zone Pennsylvania Player of the Year, the AP Class A Co-Player of the Year, Pennsylvania Football News Mr. Football, Maxpreps Small School National Player of the Year and The Republican & Herald All-Area Offensive Player of the Year.

If that's not enough, how about watching a highlight video? Or two? Holy cow. (Note: you have to be a Scout.com subscriber to watch them.)

[UPDATE: For those that don't have a Scout.com subscription, here's one highlight reel that was recently posted on YouTube. Beast.]

****

Other prospectives that have been linked to Lehigh:

QB/LB/P Matt Falcone (Palmerton HS, PA)

The skinny: This three-sport athlete has been accepted at Penn State - but not for football, where Lehigh, Lafayette and Colgate are interested. Looks to fit best at linebacker, where he amassed 111 tackles for Palmerton last year.

WR/DB/P/K Wade Brogdon (Brookwood HS, GA)

The skinny: Another three-sport athlete with a 3.9 GPA, he was Gwinnett area defensive back of the year with 6 interceptions while also punting, kicking and playing wide receiver. Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh are rumored to be interested.

RB/LB Brendan Pidgeon (Oneonta HS, NY)
The skinny: Once rumored to be on Syracuse's radar, this all-state runningback (and heavyweight wrestler) has been linked to Lehigh ina recent report.

DE/LB James Frazier (Elizabeth HS, NJ)
The skinny: Has listed Lehigh, Rhode Island and Penn State as schools he's interested in on his profile (which includes video). He's listed as "fairly raw" but could fit in as an outside linebacker in Lehigh's 3-4. He's also a basketball prospect.

TE/DE Cody Booth (Penn Manor HS, PA)

The skinny: Has listed Lehigh, Boston College, UMass, Villanova, and James Madison as schools he's interested in on his profile (which includes video). At 6'5 215 lb he seems to have established himself as a solid pass-catching threat. The report says he may need to bulk up in the weight room at the college level.

RB/DB Alan Elder (Gonzaga College HS, MD)

The skinny: Has listed Lehigh, James Madison, Illinois, Holy Cross, and Dayton as schools he's interested in on his profile (which includes video). At 5'11 175 he seems like a prototypical speed back at the Patriot League level with "good natural running ability". Report seems overly pessimistic about his college abilities.

TE Nick Cassetta (Lodi HS, NJ)

The skinny: All-Bergen County TE who caught 21 passes for 310 yards and 3 TDs as a senior. Lists Lehigh, Maryland, UConn, Syracuse, and Hofstra as potential destinations. At 6'4 255 lbs, he might end up as a good blocker, too.

S Kevin Sonnet (Dell HS, NJ)
The skinny: This defensive standout presided over the 12-0 Dell HS defense which held all their regular-season opponents to 28 total points on the year. As a junior, he has 70 tackles and was an enforcer - he would fit nicely with the aggressive "D" we have now. Lists Lehigh, Holy Cross, and Bucknell as his college choices.

More as I get them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lady Hawks Off To Flying League Start Over American

With the men's basketball team on the road in Washington, DC and the wrestling team in Hampton Roads, VA, it was the 11-4 Lady Hawks that had Stabler all to themselves (and the MASN television crews) on Saturday - and treated the home crowd to their eighth win in eight tries at "The kree-eee-ar"to a dominating 77-69 win over 10-5 American. (For those keeping score at home, yes, I am re-christening Stabler instead with the battle cry of the Mountain Hawk, kree-eee-ar. Hey, if New Mexico has the Pit and Lafayette has the Zoo Crew, we need something even better, right?)

What has to be most encouraging was not only the final score - a game where the Eagles were down as many as 21 points - but also the way they won, with solid play on the boards. Sophomore F Courtney Dentler (12 points, 7 rebounds) and junior F Courtney Molinaro (12 points, 5 rebounds) both converted in the paint, while sophomore G Erica Prosser (18 points, 8 assists) simply had a banner game, adding the outside to the solid inside game. For good measure, junior G Alex Ross added 11 points off the bench as she comes back from injury.

The Lady Hawks are not only playing great, and at 11-4 (Real Time RPI: 100) they are having their best season that I can ever remember. They'll be trying to keep the party going at 7-9 Navy (Real Time RPI: 293) on Wednesday, available on 91-3 WLVR in the Lehigh Valley and worldwide on LehighSports.com. They then head up to West Point, NY to take on a challenging league opponent: 10-5 Army (Real Time RPI: 162).

*****

Even though the Lehigh grapplers were unranked going into the season, the No. 8 Mountain Hawks' perfect 14-0 duals record was on the line this Saturday in Hampton Roads, VA. The magical wrestling season continued their thrilling ways - but, for the first time this season, came up just short in the final dual of the tournament.

Facing off against No. 15 Edinboro (PA) was no easy task in the 2:30 match, and when top ranked Gregor Gillespie of the Fightin' Scots scored a 17-2 technical fall at 157, it didn't look good for Lehigh. But the Hawk wrestlers would take four of the last five bouts - including junior 165 lb Mike Galante's 18-7 major decision to bring Lehigh back in the dual and freshman heavyweight Zach Rey's 2-1 decision over nationally-ranked Joey Fendone to allow Lehigh to advance to the finals - and capture Lehigh's 800th dual win in program history.

But the duals streak would end at the hands of a solid Central Michigan squad, ranked No. 12 in the nation. The finals did have their moments for the Mountain Hawks, including a surprise win by junior 133 lb Matt Fisk over nationally-ranked Connor Beebe and a 6-2 decision by junior 184 lb David Craig over Vince DiDona, but the Chippewas' strength across the board ended up being too much, as Central Michigan took six of the nine bouts.

The wrestlers end their long, long road trip with a stop at Navy this weekend in a key EIWA match that can he heard on WLVR and worldwide on LehighSports.com. Then next week it's back to the Valley for a seven dual homestand at Leeman-Turner Arena. Should be good times for wrestling fans the next three weeks before EIWA and nationals.

*****

Last week, the men's basketball team looked like world beaters.

At 10-3 with 4-8 Princeton on the schedule, Lehigh looked well poised to enter league play this Saturday. But after an uninspiring 73-64 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday, all of a sudden doubts started to form going into Saturday. And while the Mountain Hawks put in a gutty performance against American- with a big 3 pointer at the buzzer by junior G Marquis Hall forcing overtime - Lehigh proceeded to run ot of steam in the extra session for a 76-66 setback.

After two losses in a row, Lehigh fans are wondering if this team has what it takes to play with the big boys of the Patriot League.

One big bright spot, though, has been the play of junior F Zahir Carrington, who had a pair of double-doubles against Princeton and American this past week and scored 39 points and 22 rebounds in both games. He's growing to be a real player underneath - and emerging as one of the best post players I've seen at Lehigh in a long time.

10-5 Lehigh (Real Time RPI: 220) has two home games to set things right: the first coming on Wednesday against 12-4 Navy (Real Time RPI: 120) and the next on Saturday against 4-11 Army (Real Time RPI: 329) who has been a real pain in the side for Lehigh the last two years at Stabler, eliminating the Mountain Hawks in the Patriot League tournament two years running.

I can say that two wins will do a lot for building confidence that this Mountain Hawk team is for real.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Highlights of the 144th "Rivalry"

For all of you Lehigh fans that can't get enough of the win over Lafayette this weekend (and you prospective athletes that are thinking about coming to Lehigh, I'd like to direct you to the YouTube highlight reels from the 144th meeting between the Mountain Hawks and Leopards that I (finally) was able to put together this weekend.

It wasn't hard to do with the software that I had, but it was just time-consuming to figure out how to compress it properly, give it the proper resolution, etc. (For best results, watch the clips in "high quality".)

Highlights from the 144th "Rivalry", Part One

Senior WR Nick Johnson TD grab, defensive stops to end the first half & more!

Highlights from the 144th "Rivalry", Part 2 & Celebration

The game-clinching interception from sophomore DB John Kennedy, and unforgettable scenes from the post-game!

Fifteen minutes of highlights you'll want to see again and again.
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