The vast majority of the games that I have covered for the 800 games project have been games where I am simply a neutral observer, and had no rooting interest in the game. The only exception to this was the Kent State-Cleveland State game I attended back in November. I don't mind this, mainly because I love watching college basketball, and going to games in-person is a hobby of mine. However, this all changed Thursday night, when I watched the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks take-on the American University Eagles. It certainly felt weird watching the team on the road instead of home, but I was excited to finally see the Mountain Hawks play this year.
The game featured two teams tied for second place in the Patriot League. The game was important because the winner would have a one game lead for the right to host two tournament games instead of one. Seeing as American had yet to lose at home this year, it was crucial for them to come away with a victory. This game also featured the top two scorers in the Patriot League, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, and American's Charles Hinkle. I was really excited to see both teams, and hoped to see a competitive match up, and a potential preview of a potential Patriot League Tournament semi-final.
When I got to the Bender Arena ticket window, I asked for a ticket in the visitor's section. The cashier responded by asking me if I was sure, to which I responded "I'm positive." There was no way I was going to sit anywhere else for this game. When I walked in and took my seat, I noticed that there were quite a few students at the game, as well as the full cheerleading squad and band. This was quite a contrast to my last AU game, when the students were on spring break and therefore, attendance was lower.
The game started in favor of the Mountain Hawks. Fueled by five #superhoops, they raced out to an early 21-10 lead, prompting AU coach Jeff Jones to call time. I thought to myself "This lead is anything but safe." And, I thought correctly. Tony Wroblicky scored six straight points for the Eagles, and AU went on a 30-15 run to take a 40-36 lead at the half.
It seemed like both teams were struggling to hit shots in the 2nd half. American was doing everything they could to give the game away, and Lehigh just couldn't convert on any opportunities. Led by McCollum, the Mountain Hawks scored 5 straight points to tie the game at 46. However, that would be as close as the Mountain Hawks would get. While the AU lead reached as high as eight late in the second half, Lehigh continued to press, and managed to force some turnovers and make the game close. An #omgdunx by Gabe Knutson, an AU turnover and a McCollum jumper cut the lead to four, and another turnover on the inbounds gave Lehigh a slim chance of hope. However, Lehigh failed to hit shots down the stretch, and AU hit their free-throws to make the final margin nine, 71-62. I was disappointed in the loss, especially because it seemed like there were chances to win down the stretch. However, I have a feeling that this won't be the last time these two teams play this season.
at AMERICAN 71, LEHIGH 62 02/09/2012
LEHIGH 18-7 (6-3) -- C. McCollum 11-29 5-5 30; M. McKnight 2-6 0-0 5; J. Hamilton 4-6 0-0 11; G. Knutson 4-8 0-0 8; J. Adams 1-3 0-1 2; H. Greiner 1-6 1-2 3; J. Maneri 1-2 0-0 2; A. D'Orazio 0-2 1-2 1; S. Cvrkalj 0-1 0-0 0; C. Schaefer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-63 7-10 62. AMERICAN 16-8 (7-2) -- C. Hinkle 4-9 3-4 14; D. Munoz 3-9 2-2 11; T. Brewer 7-12 1-2 17; T. Wroblicky 8-13 2-2 18; S. McCormack 2-4 1-4 5; J. Schoof 1-6 0-0 2; R. Grafft 1-1 0-2 2; B. Jolivette 1-4 0-0 2; W. Simon II 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 9-16 71.
Three-point goals: LEH 7-21 (J. Adams 0-1; J. Hamilton 3-5; H. Greiner 0-3; C. McCollum 3-10; M. McKnight 1-2), AMER 8-17 (T. Brewer 2-3; C. Hinkle 3-6; B. Jolivette 0-1; D. Munoz 3-5; J. Schoof 0-2); Rebounds: LEH 23 (C. McCollum 9), AMER 40 (T. Wroblicky 17); Assists: LEH 11 (M. McKnight 4), AMER 14 (D. Munoz 5); Total Fouls -- LEH 15, AMER 13; Fouled Out: LEH-M. McKnight; AMER-None.