Lafayette (19-12) at Lehigh (21-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 12th, 4:45 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stabler Arena (5,600) -- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Lafayette 13-3, Lehigh 14-2. Away Record: Lafayette 6-9, Lehigh 7-8. Neutral Record: Lafayette 0-0, Lehigh 0-0. Conference Record: Lafayette 8-6, Lehigh 10-4. Series Record: Lafayette leads, 138-74.
GAME NOTES: Arch rivals Lafayette and Lehigh will collide in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament this afternoon in Bethlehem, with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This is the 213th all-time meeting between these two longtime rivals in a series that dates back to 1902, with Lafayette holding a 138-74 overall advantage. These two teams split a pair of meetings this season, each winning on its own floor.
The top-seeded Mountain Hawks have run through the tournament field after capturing their first-ever outright Patriot League regular-season title with a 10-4 league mark. Lehigh, which blew out Army in the quarterfinals (64-45) and American in the semifinals (79-57) has tied the school record for wins in a season with 21. Lehigh though, has won just one Patriot League Tournament title in 2004.
The Leopards finished the year just two games back in the standings at 8-6, after being tabbed to finish around the conference basement before the start of the year. Head coach Fran O'Hanlon was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year as a result. Lafayette, which earned the three-seed, has won four of its last five games, including a 73-65 win over Colgate and a thrilling 66-63 decision over Holy Cross in tournament play. Lafayette has two tournament titles to its credit, with the last coming in 2000.
Jared Mintz hit his first career game-winning shot with 35 seconds left, lifting Lafayette to a three-point win over Holy Cross in semifinal action. Jim Mower led four Leopards in double figures with 17 points. Ryan Willen poured in 15, while Mintz and Jeff Kari chipped in with 14 and 10 points, respectively. The three-pointer has been a huge weapon for the Leopards in this event and down the stretch in the regular season as well. After hitting a season-high 16 treys against Lehigh in late February, the team has hit a combined 19 in the first two rounds of this event. Mintz leads the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg, followed closely by Mower's 13.9 ppg and Willen's 12.1 ppg.
The Mountain Hawks made light work of American in the semifinals of this event, as a 22-point rout was spearheaded by freshman C.J. McCollum's 22 points. Three others joined McCollum in double figures, David Burchberger hit four three-pointers en route to a 16-point effort. Marquis Hall added 11 points and Zahir Carrington finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Lehigh shot .472 from the floor and was a scorching 8-of-13 from behind the arc (.615). McCollum has been unstoppable this season despite his youth, averaging a robust 18.9 ppg en route to being tabbed the Patriot League Player of the Year. In fact, McCollum became the first player in Patriot League History to be named the conference's Player and Rookie of the Year. Hall (11.3 ppg) and Carrington (10.5 ppg) earned All-PL Second-Team honors and provide plenty of support at the offensive end of the floor for Lehigh, which is averaging a solid 75.2 ppg on .455 shooting.
The highest remaining seed gets to host the Patriot League Tournament title game and that tips the scales in Lehigh's favor in what should be yet another spirited game between these two rivals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lehigh 73, Lafayette 69
03/12 11:08:29 ET