BETHLEHEM, Pa. –
In an offensive thriller in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Wednesday evening, the Lafayette men's basketball team came up just shy of knocking off preseason Patriot League favorite Lehigh by a final score of 86-83.
Ahead 43-35 at halftime and by two following a Justin Jaworski
triple with 1:03 left, the final minute didn't go the Leopards way as Lehigh's Lance Tejada answered with a three and Jordan Cohen free throws sealed the final with sophomore Alex Petrie's
three at the buzzer ringing off the rim. The loss puts Lafayette at 3-9 on the season and 0-1 in Patriot League play, while the Mountain Hawks improve to 8-4 and 1-0 in league action.
The Maroon and White featured four different players in double-figure scoring, led by 19 with a career-high five assists from senior co-captain Paulius Zalys
. Sophomore guards Petrie and Jaworski chipped in with 15 points apiece, while junior Lukas Jarrett
added 10, all coming in the opening 20 minutes.
Lafayette was solid on the offensive end all night, recording 20 assists to 10 turnovers and shooting 30-of-60 from the field (50.0%) and 14-of-29 from three (48.3%). Unfortunately, Lehigh was a step above, connecting on 11-of-14 from distance (78.6%) and 28-of-48 overall (58.3%).
Lafayette opened the game on the right track, using triples from Jaworski, Petrie and Zalys to take a 9-6 edge into the first media timeout. Following a Kyle Leufroy floater that pulled the home side back within one, the Leopards stepped back on the gas, ripping off seven straight to force a Lehigh timeout at 12:30 with the advantage at eight, 16-8.
The Maroon and White kept the Hawks at that margin through a long stretch of play without a stoppage, leading 34-26 with five minutes remaining in the opening half and hitting on eight of their first 15 from beyond the arc. Lehigh got as close as four with 3:24 left, but a 5-0 final minute for the Leopards put the game to the break with Lafayette ahead, 43-35.
Lehigh hit its first three triples to open the second half and pull within one, 47-46, at 17:20, but the Leopards settled back in with a 9-2 response to extend the lead back to eight at 56-48 with 15:09 to play. Lehigh made a run once again, though, tying it up at 58-58 before Zalys' step-back jumper from the block to beat the shot clock put Lafayette up two, 60-58, with 12 minutes remaining.
A 7-0 Lehigh run around the eight-minute mark answered a 7-0 spurt from the Leopards to knot it up at 65-65. Then, out of a timeout, Lehigh's Marques Wilson and Pat Andree went back-to-back from distance to give the home side their first lead since the early stages at 71-67, forcing a Leopard stoppage.
Five straight from Petrie served as a response, pulling the Leopards back in front, but the teams traded punches through to the three-minute mark with Lehigh up one, 79-78. A Jaworski three at the 1:03 mark gave Lafayette its final lead before Tejada answered with a tough, contested triple of his own and questionable calls spoiled the final possessions. Cohen free throws at 14 seconds sealed the final score at 86-83.
Lafayette returns to action on Saturday, traveling to West Point, N.Y. for a meeting with Army. Tip-off from Christl Arena is set for 1 p.m.