Men’s basketball loses fifth straight, falls to Lehigh 70-55

Lehigh’s one-two punch of Tim Kempton and Kahron Ross proved to be too much for the Eagles

Men’s basketball loses fifth straight, falls to Lehigh 70-55

The AU Eagles lost their fifth straight game on Saturday to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 70-55, despite a strong first half showing.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawks came into the game against the Eagle as the best offensive team in the Patriot League -- leading the conference in four categories (3-point shooting percentage, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and total scoring) and were led by 2-time Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton. Kempton averages 20.5 points and 10 boards a game, and the Mountain Hawks have four other scorers averaging double digits.

Lehigh got out to a hot start behind Kempton, who finished the first half with 10 points and 7 rebounds. However, midway through the first half, when it seemed like AU had no answers for Lehigh, the Eagles switched to a matchup zone, forcing the Mountain Hawks to take shots from the perimeter. The result: Lehigh shot three-for-nine from the three-point line, and the Eagles finished the half down four, 30-26.

It was a scrappy effort for the Eagles in the first half, with freshman center Mark Gasperini leading the charge with 10 points. Senior forward Charlie Jones was all over the floor, grabbing seven rebounds and picking up a block and a steal.

Lehigh made adjustments and came out of the second half hot, jumping back out to a 10 point lead thanks to a reverse layup from junior guard Kahron Ross. The lead continued to grow -- at the under 15 media timeout, the Eagles were down 14 points, 45-31.

The Mountain Hawks did not look back, and the game was never closer than it was at half time. Lehigh’s one-two punch of junior guard Ross and big-man Kempton proved to be too much for the young Eagles. Ross led all scorers with 19 points, and Kempton had a double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.

For the second time this season, the Eagles have lost five straight games. Coach Mike Brennan, looking more stressed as the game went on, acknowledged how many offensive weapons Lehigh had, and knew they were in for a tough challenge.

“I thought we came ok in the first half with some good life,” said Brennan. “But you have to put together two halves against a team like that, and we didn’t.”

The Eagles were led by freshman duo Mark Gasperini and point guard Sa’eed Nelson. Gasperini finished with 16 points, while Nelson chipped in 14.

Although the final result of the game wasn’t ideal, Brennan said he is pleased with what he’s seeing out of Gasperini.

“We’re asking a lot of Mark right now,” Brennan said. “It takes a while to learn. It’s not easy. You want him to be aggressive.”

Junior guard Alex Paquin had a solid game, scoring eight points and dishing out two assists. Paquin echoed many of his coach’s sentiments after the game.

“It’s really hard to play this team because they have a lot of weapons,” Paquin said. “We just gotta put two halves together, win the 50/50 balls. We all have to take after Charlie [Jones], and play as hard as he does.”

This loss brings the Eagles to 5-18, 2-10 in the Patriot League. The win brings Lehigh to 7-5 in Patriot League play, 13-10 overall.

The Eagles will look to bounce back on Wednesday night when they take on third place Boston University at 8pm in Bender Arena.

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