Lehigh (21-8) at Lafayette (18-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kirby Sports Center (3,500) -- Easton, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: Lehigh 11-3, Lafayette 13-3. Away Record: Lehigh 9-5, Lafayette 5-11. Neutral Record: Lehigh 1-0, Lafayette 0-0. Conference Record: Lehigh 10-4, Lafayette 10-4. Series Record: Lafayette leads, 136-80.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off tying the conference tournament record with 14 3- pointers against Holy Cross, the second-seeded Lafayette Leopards play host to the third-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks with a trip to the Patriot League Conference Finals on the line.
Lafayette earned a berth in the semifinals after taking care of Holy Cross, 77-54, thanks in large part to the outside shooting and 20 points from Seth Hinrichs. Tony Johnson added 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Joey Ptasinski netted 11 points off the bench.
The Leopards are hoping to win their first Patriot League title since 2000. They enter today's action as winners of six straight, including a 63-62 verdict at Bucknell on Feb. 16. Hinrichs led the squad with 14.6 ppg and 4.9 rpg, earning him a spot on the All-Patriot League Second Team. Johnson made the First-Team after finishing third in the conference with 4.8 apg, while also pouring in 13 ppg. Lafayette is third in the conference in scoring at 69.1 ppg, and it has made a league-best 265 3-pointers.
Lafayette also defeated Lehigh in both prior meetings this season, and owns a 136-80 advantage in the all-time series. Levi Giese scored 17 points to lead the Leopards to a 78-57 dismantling of their rivals at Lehigh, handing the Mountain Hawks their first setback since star point guard CJ McCollum was lost for the season with a broken foot. Lafayette also took care of business at home with a 79-71 win behind 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting from Johnson.
Lehigh began the season at 9-3 before McCollum went down. At the time he was averaging 23.9 ppg and was looking to win his third Patriot League Player of the Year award. Despite playing the entire conference schedule without its star, Lehigh found success thanks to point guard Mackey McKnight, who stepped up in McCollum's absence with 11.8 ppg and a conference-best 5.1 apg. Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner held down the middle, averaging 13.7 and 13.3 ppg, respectively, while combining for more than 11 rpg.
The Mountain Hawks avoided the upset against Colgate in the opening round of this tournament, defeating the Raiders behind 21 points and seven rebounds from Knutson, and nine assists from McKnight. Lehigh shot 53.2 percent from the floor in the game while outrebounding Colgate, 26-23, and holding the Raiders to just three free throw attempts.
A win would give Lehigh its 1,000th victory in program history. Meanwhile, Greiner is 11 points shy of 1,000 for his career, and he would become the third member of his class to reach that plateau. Knutson needs just seven points for 1,500 in his illustrious career.
The winner of this contest will head to the tournament final where they will meet either top-seeded Bucknell or fourth-seeded Army. While Lafayette has found success against Lehigh so far this season, it's never easy to defeat the same team three times in one year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lehigh 72, Lafayette 70
03/09 10:38:15 ET