Lehigh to Kick Off 2022 with Patriot League Opener at American on New Year’s Day

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BETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania – After a busy two-day stretch after the Christmas break that featured Maryland and Home vs. Eastern games on consecutive days, the Lehigh men’s basketball team kicks off the new year on Saturday at American. The opening tip for the New Year’s Day showdown in our nation’s capital is 4:00 p.m. on ESPN +. The Mountain Hawks enter the Patriot League game with a win, outperforming the eastern Wednesday night. The day before, Lehigh put in a strong first half in Maryland and was only three behind after 20 minutes of play.

Against the Terrapins, Lehigh led 7:01 in the first half and most of the opening phases before Maryland reacted. The Terps opened up a 10-point lead in the final minutes, but the Mountain Hawks finished the half with a 10-3 run to draw 37-34 at break. Maryland were strong in the second half, but nonetheless a Nic Lynch 3-hand brought Lehigh back in 11 with less than eight minutes on the clock before the Terps responded for the 76-55 win. Senior Jeameril Wilson led Lehigh with 17 points while Junior Evan Taylor had 14 points and Lynch added 12 points.

Less than 24 hours later, Lehigh returned home to the floor. Eastern held a 30-28 halftime lead, in a half in which no team with more than one possession led for the final 16:41 of the verse. But the Mountain Hawks responded in the second half against an Eagles team that had won eight straight. Lehigh would open a double-digit lead before finishing the 70-63 win. First year Keith Higgins Jr. broke his previous career highs in points and minutes – at 18 and 36 minutes, respectively. His five rebounds were also a career high. Higgins became the eighth Mountain Hawk with double digits in a game that season. Taylor continued his strong game, hitting double digits for the sixth game in a row when he climbed a career high with 18 points in the 7-out-of-10 shooting.

Wilson hit double digits again, scoring 12 on 5-of-7 shooting. He finished with a career high of five blocks, the most of any Lehigh player since Tim Kempton had six in the Patriot League semifinals at Boston University on March 5, 2017. Wilson’s five rejections were also the most for a Lehigh player at home since Kempton had five that game earlier (March 2, 2017 in the quarterfinals vs. Colgate). Junior Jake Betlow reached career highs in played minutes (28) and assists (3). It’s also noteworthy that the win marked the 235th in head coach Brett Reed’s career as he overtook former Bucknell coach Pat Flannery for the second-highest overall wins in Patriot League history. The Mountain Hawks closed Eastern on the 3-point line as the Eagles were 0-for-11 from the deep. It was the first time Lehigh had held an opponent without a made three against Quinnipiac since December 21, 2013 (QU was 0-for-16).

Lehigh and American will face each other in the league opener for the first time since 2010-11, which was the seventh straight season that the Mountain Hawks and Eagles opened the Patriot League.

The Mountain Hawks impressed in their first few games of the Patriot League, setting a record of 19:12 in the opening games. Only 13 of those 31 games were played at home, with Lehigh hitting a 9-4 mark in the friendly and 10-8 away. Lehigh has won a total of four of his last five opening games.

The American enters the Patriot League 4-8 after winning two of the last three (at Howard and against Saint Francis University before losing to George Mason). The Eagles’ game against Siena on December 28th has been canceled. Senior Stacy Beckton Jr. leads the Eagles in the ranking (13.3), closely followed by Johnny O’Neil (10.1) and Matt Rogers (10.0). Colin Smalls leads the Eagles with 35 assists in 12 games, while O’Neil’s 4.8 rebound average ranks first on American. The Eagles started the season beating Marist and William & Mary before losing the next seven, resulting in a strong end to non-league play.

In the last meeting between Lehigh and the Americans, the Eagles won 77-56 to end Lehigh’s 10-game winning streak in the series. Overall, the Mountain Hawks lead the all-time series, 29-27. In those 10 victories, Lehigh didn’t lag behind in seven of them – and six came in Bethlehem and four in Washington, DC. Lehigh and American first played in 1960-61, a 71-61 American win.

After Saturday’s game, the Mountain Hawks will return home on Tuesday at 7 p.m. to meet Colgate

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Date: January 1, 2022
Opponent: American eagle
Tip: 4 p.m.
Arena (capacity): Bender Arena (4,500)
Location: Washington, DC
Lehigh’s record: 2-10, 0-0 Patriot League
American record: 4-8, 0-0 Patriot League
Series: Lehigh leads, 29-27
Radio: Fox Sports Radio 94.7 FM & 1230 AM

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