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Lehigh Finishes On Top Of Everything; But The Real Season Starts Now

It's been a dream ride for Lehigh this year in terms of winter sports.  Wrestling?  Try a 5-0-1 dual record - tied for tops in EIWA with eight wrestlers ranked in the top 33.  Women's basketball?  Try a 26-3 record, an RPI of 75, and the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament starting at Holy Cross this Saturday.

And the men's wild and crazy ride in a daffy Patriot League regular season has ended with only the sixth freshman athlete in the 23 year history of the League to win both freshman of the year and player of the yearFreshman G C.J. McCollum unanimously was voted the honor thanks to his 23.5 points per league game and - frighteningly - seems to be improving his overall game every time he hits the court.  "Jay" - as well as senior F Zahir "Z" Carrington, senior G Marquis Hall and freshman F Gabe Knutson making second team all-League and the all-rookie team respectively.

And - oh yeah - we also got the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League tournament, too.  (more)

For hoops the men's basketball season continues on Wednesday.   Tomorrow, I'll break down the matchup against a team that has given Lehigh nightmares for the last three years: Army.

But worthy of mention are a few sentences about the efforts of the men and women this weekend to wrap up the No. 1 seeds.  First, the Lady Hawks.

Lehigh Finishes Season On Top

For the third straight game the Lehigh women’s basketball team overcame a halftime deficit as it defeated Holy Cross 65-55 Saturday afternoon from the Hart Center. The Mountain Hawks trailed by six at the half, but were able to out-score the Crusaders 42-26 after the break to earn the victory. The Brown and White shot a season-best 67 percent in the second half and had four players finish the game in double figures.

“I thought defensively we played another strong game, but we struggled on the offensive end in the first half,” head coach Sue Troyan said. “The posts got into foul trouble in the first half, but I thought we gutted through it and they came up big in the second half. Our offense really got ignited in the second half and we shot much better.” 
With a potential home game on the line, the Lady Hawks gave themselves a chance to get home court in the championship game should they navigate through the Hart Center this weekend and take a pair of games.  With their closest rival American also winning, they needed to win to get the advantage and - despite an early scare - managed to do so.

In what seems to be the theme of the Lady Hawks' second half of the season, Lehigh's offensive rhythm starts out behind - more frequently leading to halftime deficits - but ultimately the "forty minutes of heck" defense creates the transition opportunities that allow Lehigh to pull away in the second half.  Junior G Erica Prosser's 14 points led the Mountain Hawks (and she added 8 assists), while junior F Courtney Dentler, sophomore C Alexa Williams and sophomore F Emily Gratch joined her in double figures.

And the men:

Hot Shooting Leads Lehigh To First Outright Title

Behind a torrid shooting performance Lehigh earned its first outright Patriot League championship in school history with a 91-80 victory over Holy Cross on Saturday evening at Stabler Arena on Senior Night.  The Mountain Hawks buried a Stabler Arena record 15 three-pointers and shot 54% from the field in winning their first league title since 2004 and the first outright title in school annals.  Freshman G C.J. McCollum knocked down five three-pointers en route to a game-high 28 points, while senior G Marquis Hall drained six three-pointers and scored a season best 25 points to go along with a career-high 12 assists. 
With American beating Lafayette earlier in the evening, there was no drama in regards to seeding: Lehigh would be the No. 1 seed, which made the Saturday game at the STAR a victory lap for the seniors.  While it sure seemed like McCollum was trying to let Hall be the leading scorer on his senior day - going as far as feeding him the ball for some late 3's - it would be McCollum who would steal the show again with yet another 20+ point effort: 28 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds.  Hall's double-double (25 points, 12 assists) assured that he would finish his regular season career with head held very high, as would senior G Dave Buchburger (16 points, 4 boards).

If there's a tiny worry going into the tournament, it's that Carrington got four fouls for the second straight game, though his 7 point, 9 rebound game was a pretty solid performance in support of the torrid shooting from outside.


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