But for the Lady Hawks, who are two-time defending champions of the Patriot League and seemed in December to be oh-so-close to becoming a team capable of an upset in the NCAA tournament, the situation is very, very different.
First came the humbling home loss to American, 64-51 - on Lehigh's home court. Losing at Stabler Arena? That almost never happens.
But then came the nip-and-tuck game at Navy this past Wednesday, where the game ended with an offensive foul called on F Courtney Dentler with eleven seconds left (no, really, when was the last time you saw THAT happen in a Division I basketball game?), and a choice to shoot a two instead of a three at the end of the game meant that the Midshipwomen pulled off the "upset", 63-62.
In a year where Sue Troyan's Lady Hawks seemed poised to reach the next level, they now are in real danger of reaching 0-3 in the Patriot League. (more)
Anchored by the best women's basketball player to ever put on a Mountain Hawk uniform, G Erica Prosser, Troyan is a master at a selfless, spread-the-wealth offense that sees eight or nine or ten players get a chance to score in a given game.
But while Prosser, Dentler and F Emily Gratch have been putting down the buckets, two Achillies heels have appeared on this team.
First: the lack of a proven scoring threat outside the three all-League players. G Aly Byorick, F Becky Guman, F Kristen Dalton and C Alexa Williams have had flashes, haven't yet established themselves as go-to players on this team. If one of them can find some consistent scoring touch, it would help immensely.
The second: rebounding. Lehigh finds itself near the bottom of the Patriot League in a category where they've been normally much better: in rebounds per game (36.2) and rebounds allowed per game (39.2). Only one other teams has given up more rebounds than they've gotten - 5-12 Holy Cross.
To add to the challenge , a win at 8-8 Army, on the road, is hardly a given. The Lady Knights, led by F Erin Anthony on offense, are great at field goal defense, leading the Patriot League, and West Point has been one of the tougher places for the Lady Hawks to win as well.
There's a lot of action against the Academies this weekend, but the most crucial game for a Lehigh team to win this weekend might be up at West Point this Sunday at 2:00 PM. An 0-3 conference start could be a big hole that the Lady Hawks may not be able to dig out of.
Other Lehigh winter sports this weekend:
* While the Lady Hawks were playing a nip-and-tuck game vs. Navy at Annapolis, the men were playing a close game as well at Stabler - until the last two minutes. Led by the solid performance of F Gabe Knutson and a gigantic 3-point basket by G Michael Ojo, Lehigh rallied to a fantastic 71-63 victory.
“I was proud and pleased we were able to get this victory because it’s such a hard-fought win,” said head coach Brett Reed. “It was a slugfest, an extremely physical game. Neither team was able to get into rhythm, particularly due to the [other] team’s defensive intensity.”
Aside from Knutson's double-double (18 points, 14 boards), super sophomore G C. J. McCollum logged a double-double of his own (23 points, 11 boards) and F Holden Greiner also solidified his spot at forward with a 5 rebound, 5 point, 3 blocked shot, 4 steal performance in the win.
Barring injury, this weekend at Stabler will see McCollum reach 1,000 points if he can simply score 9 points against the 8-8 Knights, who got pulverized 68-54 against Holy Cross this past Wednesday. Army's huge strength is 3-point shooting, led by G Julian Simmons (17.2 ppg, 43.8% three-point shooting) and F Jeremy Hence (14.8 ppg, 43.1% three-point shooting). Crucial to Lehigh's chances this weekend is containing these two guys on the perimeter.
The match will take place Saturday at the STAR at 7:00 PM.
* In wrestling, Lehigh will take on Navy in Annapolis against one of their most-played EIWA opponents. Lehigh will meet Navy for the 91st time Saturday, making the Mids Lehigh’s second most often wrestled opponent behind Penn State.
Navy has wrestled just two duals this season, downing Franklin & Marshall on December 10 and dropping a 28-9 decision at No. 9 Oklahoma on January 7. Navy is led by All-American Bryce Saddoris, who is ranked seventh at 157, while Luke Rebertus is the only other ranked Midshipman, coming in at No. 11 at 184.
It's at 184 which should be the match of the day, when Rebertus faces off against Lehigh's Robert Hamlin. Hamlin wrestled back to finish third at the Midlands, and went 3-0 at the Virginia Duals including a 7-6 win over top-ranked Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming. That win helped Hamlin earn EIWA Wrestler of the Week honors. The Jonesville, Vermont native is now 17-1 on the season.
The match will take place at 7:00 PM from Halsey Field House in Annapolis.
All three games will have broadcasts available on Patriot League All-Access and LehighSports.com.