Lafayette Lehigh Basketball

Lafayette whips Lehigh, creates tie atop Patriot League

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In the immediate aftermath of Lehigh’s 65-62 win at Bucknell on Wednesday night, more than a few people believed that the Mountain Hawks would maintain control of the Patriot League race until the two preseason favorites meet again on February 18.

On Sunday afternoon, long-time rival Lafayette had other ideas.

Levi Giese led five Leopards in double figures with 17 points and Seth Hinrichs tallied a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) as Lafayette beat Lehigh 78-57 at Stabler Arena. Lafayette held a 30-22 lead at the half but played even better offensively in the second half, shooting 70% from the field (21-of-30) and and 6-of-12 from beyond the arc.

B.J. Bailey, Gabe Knutson and Mackey McKnight scored 12 points apiece to lead Lehigh offensively, but the Mountain Hawks didn’t come out with the same energy they displayed on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. That opened the door for Fran O’Hanlon’s team and Lafayette was more than willing to take advantage.

“At times, we did not play with the poise and energy that we’d been exhibiting in previous games,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed said to lehighsports.com. “Our lack of execution on offense, and inability to finish plays and put the ball in the basket, was the story in the first half.

“In the second half, our defense deteriorated and today, we were not able to conquer the mental and emotional aspects of the game of basketball.”

Without the services of the injured C.J. McCollum bumps in the road were to be expected for Lehigh, but in the aftermath of their win at Bucknell few could have expected what happened on Sunday.

Lehigh didn’t shoot very well in either of their last two games, making just 33.9% of their shots from the field against Lafayette (35.6% against Bucknell). But with Lafayette shoot 55% from the field, hitting ten three pointers (Bucknell shot 2-of-14 from beyond the arc) and assisting on 25 of their 33 field goals, Lehigh found themselves in a hole too big to climb out of.

“Lafayette played an excellent brand of basketball, made the plays they needed to make and are a very dangerous team, particularly when they make shots,” noted Reed.

As a result of Sunday’s loss the Mountain Hawks (4-1) drop into a tie for first with Bucknell and Lehigh is just a game behind both at 3-2.

Does Lafayette’s win mean that the Patriot League race will feature more than two teams? Tough to go that far, especially considering the fact that Lehigh and Bucknell are the lone teams with winning (overall) records. But there’s no doubt that Lafayette should feel more confident about their chances in light of Sunday’s victory.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.