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Not The Weekend to "Buy American"

Despite the amount of "signing day" hoopla" - and there will be some more next week -there's an awful lot of winter sports taking center stage this weekend, with the final home wrestling duals before the EIWA championships and two huge basketball games this weekend - if any of them get played due to the impending "storm of the century".  (At least down here, closer to Philadelphia, that's what they're calling it.)

There's that football game in Miami, too, yet to play as well.  But before that, we have a ton of huge events at Stabler.  Let's all hope the snow holds off and we can "play two" at at Stabler, shall we?  (more)





This past Saturday at Stabler, the Lehigh women's basketball team didn't have their best day shooting but managed to grind out a win against Holy Cross, 58-52.  My family and I braved the "threats" of snow to watch the Lehigh women (and the local middle school bands) at Stabler.  (In retrospect, it wasn't that much of a threat compared to this weekend.)  Once I had heard on the radio that Holy Cross senior G Bethany O'Dell didn't make the trip due to injury, I was fully expecting a blowout.  It was not meant to be, however.

The Lady Crusaders did a great job limiting Lehigh's ability to make 3-pointers all game, with Lehigh an incredible 1-for-15 outside the arc.  That perimeter defense kept the Lady Crusaders within five until the last two minutes of the first half, when a patented "steal-and-layup" from junior G Erica Prosser spurred a 4-0 run in the final two minutes to make the score 26-19 at halftime.  The Lady Hawks kept the momentum going after halftime - after Holy Cross senior F Briana McFadden scored a quick basket, sophomore C Alexa Williams grabbed three straight offensive rebounds that resulted in six points and an eleven point lead.

The tone being set, Lehigh would win this game with rebounding, rebounding, rebounding - with the Lady Hawks racking up a 45-30 advantage on the boards.  Williams led the way with 12 (to go with her 11 points, a double-double), but senior G Tricia Smith (8) and senior G Alex Ross (7) also racked up huge rebound numbers in gutting out the victory.

It was a fun afternoon of basketball, with the bounce zone and the pop-a-shot to keep my son happy and the bands adding some music to the party as well.  "We really appreciate our fans," head coach Sue Troyan told Mike Zambelli in the post-game interview.  "Our girls take a lot of pride in terms of protecting the home court and giving the fans something good to watch."  (Note to Ms. Troyan: We appreciated it.)

Punctuated with a win, Lehigh now has a big game against American on Wednesday with first place in the Patriot League on the line at Stabler.  With any sort of luck it will be revenge time for the Lady Hawks' only Patriot League loss of the season, a 69-65 loss at Bender Arena in DCJunior F Michelle Kirk did most of the damage that afternoon with a whopping 32 points, including the last four free throws that ended up being the difference in the game.  Lehigh fell behind early - at one point falling behind by 12 - and then surged back, tying the game at the end of regulation with a clutch 3 pointer by senior G Alex Ross.

The Lady Eagles rode that win to six more victories, putting them in the middle of an eight game winning streak.  Aside from Kirk, junior F Liz Leer (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and senior C Ohemaa Nyanin (6 rpg) round out a tall frontcourt, while sophomore G Ebony Edwards and sophomore G Raven Harris have been stellar in league play, with Edwards leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.

The key will be simple for the Lady Hawks - unlike the game in DC, start strong, and then use their deep bench to wear down the Lady Eagles.  For all American's strengths, their big achillies heel is their bench - if you can get to them.  The game will be broadcast in the Lehgh Valley on Service Electric 2 Sports, with Mike Zambelli and Jim Wills, and Jeff Tourial and Mike Lederer will do the radio play-by-play for 91.3 WLVR for this crucial game.  Game audio will be available through Lehighsports.com and video will be available via the Patriot League All-Access package.

*****

Before the big game, though, at 1:05 the No. 7-ranked Lehigh grapplers will be in the building taking on Rutgers.  Rutgers entered the rankings at No. 23 this week, and is in the midst of a school-record 12-dual unbeaten streak:

The Scarlet Knights have three wrestlers currently ranked by InterMat, led by heavyweight Dominick Russo, the reigning EIWA Wrestler of the Week, who comes in at No. 8.  Also ranked for the Scarlet Knights are senior Lamar Brown (No. 17 at 197) and junior Daryl Cocozzo (No. 20 at 157). Lehigh and Rutgers wrestlers crossed paths at the Midlands with sophomore heavyweight Zach Rey defeating Russo 7-2 in the quarterfinals, and Rutgers’ Trevor Melde upsetting senior 141 lb Seth Ciasulli in the Round of 16. The Scarlet Knights will have several familiar faces on their bench as John Leonardis (Lehigh ‘97) and Cory Cooperman (Lehigh ‘06) serve on the staff of third-year head coach Scott Goodale.
Aside from seeing these expected rematches, another wrestler to watch is sophomore 197 lb Joe Kennedy, who has vaulted into the Intermat Top 20 rankings at No. 19.  Kennedy has won nine of his last 13 bouts, including three over Top 10 wrestlers.

On Friday, the grapplers were down 12-3 at intermission but surged back with Kennedy's bonus-point win gave Lehigh a 24-12 win against No. 19-ranked Virginia Tech.
“Virginia Tech is a solid team with a lot of ranked wrestlers,” explained Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. “They out fought us tonight. At times we stopped wrestling trying to coast to wins. It cost us one match and almost cost us another. We’ll need to do a better job tomorrow.

Santoro continued, “Sophomore 165 lb Brandon Hatchett went out and beat a ranked guy. Senior 184 lb David Craig, we knew it would be a great match, but he kind of shut down at the end and gave Spellman a chance to win, but our last few guys came up and stepped up like they always do.”
The game will be broadcast in the Lehgh Valley on Service Electric 2 Sports, with Doug Heater and Kyle Berger on the call.  Steve Lomangino and Gary Brownell will do the radio play-by-play for 91.3 WLVR in th efinal home dual of the season.  Game audio and video will be available through Lehighsports.com.

*****

Up at the Hart Center - in front of a national TV audience on CBS College Sports - the Lehigh men's team laid the Crusaders to waste last weekend in a 78-60 shellacking .  (You'd have never guessed that Lehigh had lost thirteen straight games at the Hart Center going into last Saturday's contest.)  The win - coupled by some help - means that there are two basketball games with first place on the line this weekend -if the game's not postponed due to DC's hammering by the blizzard.  (American's web site assures us it's "game on".)

Freshman F Gabe Knutson was the man of the weekend with 31 points as he had his way underneath against the Crusaders, while senior G Dave Buchburger (11 points, 6 rebounds) and freshman G C.J. McCollum had 17 in the blowout win.  Last year if you had told me that there would be a game where senior F Zahir Carrington and senior G Marquis Hall would *combine* for six points and we'd win, I'd have called you crazy.  But that's where we're at right now: the Hawks have balanced scoring and multiple weapons.

The Eagles will be a challenging bookend to Lehigh's three-game road swing, however.  American has won four straight, thanks to the expected surge of junior F Vlad "The Mad Romanian" Moldoveanu and his 20.2 ppg average and 6 rebounds per game.  His presence has allowed sophomore F Stephen Lumpkins (11.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg) to blossom underneath.  The backcourt has struggled, but has stabilized with the presence of junior G Nick Hendra (9.6 ppg, 2.8 apg).

Lehigh's best chance of coming out of Bender Arena with a win involve senior F Zahir Carrington and freshman F Gabe Knutson winning the rebound battle underneath.  If Carrington can get one of those 12 point, 11 rebound days we all know he's capable of any given day, I like Lehigh's chances.  If not...

The game will be broadcast in the Lehgh Valley on ESPN AM 1230 and 1320 in the valley, with Matt Kerr and on the call.  Game audio will be available through Lehighsports.com, and video will be available via the Patriot League All-Access package.

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