The Morning Call (Sunday)
Turnovers, fouls hobble Hawks in loss to Midshipmen
Too many turnovers in the first half. Too many fouls in the second half.
Lehigh coach Brett Reed efficiently and succinctly broke down the reasons for his team’s 69-61 loss to the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday at Stabler Arena.
“I think our inability to manage turnovers better in the first half,” Reed said, “our inability to keep them off of the freethrow line in the second half and to hold them to one shot too, that’s the biggest story of this game.”
The Mountain Hawks committed 11 turnovers in a slowly played opening 20 minutes and sent Navy to the charity stripe 19 times in the second 20 minutes. They allowed the Midshipmen to grab 10 offensive rebounds for the game.
Junior John Carter Jr. scored 18 points to pace Navy, which had four players in double digits, including No. 1 scorer Cam Davis.
Nic Lynch, a 6-foot-11 junior center, continues to play outstanding basketball for Lehigh. He led the team with 17 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Coach Ed DeChellis’ Midshipmen improved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Patriot League. Lehigh is 1-2 in league action.
Lehigh, which trailed 34-27 at intermission, came out energized in the second half, using an 8-0 run to overtake Navy and force DeChellis, the former Penn State coach, to call a timeout. The score was tied at 45-all when Navy seized control.
The key play during the Midshipmen’s 8-0 spurt was freshman Jalin Sinclair, who scored 14 points and played well
for Lehigh, fouling Austin Inge on a 3-point attempt. Inge dropped all three free throws to put Navy ahead 51-45.
In total, Navy made 13 of 19 freethrow tries in the second half.
“They went to the foul line over and over and over,” said Reed, whose team split two games with Lafayette last weekend. “In a physical game it was a little disappointing the foul total was so high for us.”
“We lost our composure a little bit in the second half,” said Lynch, who has totaled 59 points in the first three games.
DeChellis credited his crew for finding its footing after a disappointing start to the second half.
“We played the way we wanted to play there for a stretch and created some separation,” DeChellis said. “We made some baskets, we knocked some balls free.
“Defensively, I thought we were pretty good today even though they shot a pretty good percentage [56.3]. I thought it was both ends of the floor.”
Lynch a linchpin for Lehigh
No player in the Patriot League may be more improved this season than Lynch.
It’s not as if he struggled greatly as a sophomore. Lynch, from Seattle, averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a season ago in 19 games. But this season he knew he needed to step up as Lehigh’s lone returning big with significant experience.
Lynch has stepped up — and his coach and opposing coaches are taking notice.
“He’s a good player, he’s a load,” DeChellis said of Lynch. “He’s skilled. He’s strong. We had our hands full and we’ll have our hands full [Sunday] at our place. His size really bothers us.”
“I put in a lot of hard work in the offseason,” Lynch said, “and that’s where the confidence comes from.”
Let’s take a road trip
Lehigh loads up the luxury bus this morning for its road trip to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
The Mountain Hawks and Midshipmen conclude their city-to-city weekend clash with a Sunday matinee, set for 3 p.m., at Alumni Hall. This matchup will conclude the season series between the two teams.
Lehigh returns to Stabler Arena on Jan. 16 versus Bucknell. The Mountain Hawks also play the Bison in Lewisburg on Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.