Rushed Reaction: #15 Lehigh 75, #2 Duke 70Posted by mpoindexter on March 16th, 2012
- The Mountain Hawks may be the Most Fun Team in the Tournament. Lehigh’s players didn’t just want to win, they wanted to do it with style, with bravado. Few players can be as artfully aggressive on the court as C.J. McCollum. Few can grin wide and shuffle their feet — almost dancing — in a tense late-game situation like Mackey McKnight did when he got a perimeter mismatch against Miles Plumlee. Few players are as constantly vocal on the court as Justin Maneri. The result is a team that may play with more attitude and panache than any other team in the title hunt.
- This Wasn’t Totally Unexpected. Some basketball tea leaf readers saw this coming. First among them was stats guru Nathan Walker, who was already basking in a Lehigh victory back on Selection Sunday. Others, like the fellows over at SCACCHoops, saw it being a 50/50 tossup. Add in Ryan Kelly‘s absence due to injury, and you have a Lehigh win that some people saw happening, as improbable as that seems.
- Duke’s Guard Defense Hurt Them. Duke is missing the lockdown defensive guard this year that Mike Krzyzewski seems to clone annually in the university’s biology labs. As a result, Lehigh’s guards ate them alive. Duke couldn’t stop McKnight from penetrating in the half court; they couldn’t stop the perimeter pick and roll; they couldn’t trap in the full-court press; this led to a number of transition dunks. The Blue Devils’ guard-trio of Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins may be lethal shooters, but they’re a liability on the other side of the ball.
Star of the Game. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh. He didn’t just score 30 points and play all but one minute of the game — he did it and made it look easy. Every Duke defender — from Josh Hairston, to Austin Rivers, to Miles Plumlee–tried, and failed, to keep the 6’3″ Lehigh junior away from the basket. All of them failed. At times it seemed as if McCollum could do everything — jump, dribble, defend, shoot — better than everyone else on the floor.
Sights and Sounds. Lehigh’s fans, relegated to a single seating section near center court, were as entertaining as the game. The Mountain Hawk faithful have fully bought in to the “large cardboard head” phenomenon. What’s more as the game progressed, they passed out dozens of “GO LEHIGH” signs to “neutral” fans in attendance (read: UNC fans). They were easily the loudest fans so far per capita, and the most involved. When McCollum hit a free throw with one second left to make it a four-point margin, the Lehigh seating section let out the most relieved cheer one can imagine. They earned it.
Quotable. “This game is a great game. I’ve been in it for 37 years and it takes you to incredible highs. And it takes you to incredible lows. And tonight’s one of those lows.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Duke.
Wildcard. “But it was basically a home game for Duke,” you may say, but you’d be partially wrong. Sure, Duke was only 50 miles from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but any Duke game outside of Cameron in the state of North Carolina is bound to have more people who’d like to see the Blue Devils lose than ones who’d like to see them win. In reality, Duke would probably find a more sympathetic crowd in Madison Square Garden than in Greensboro Coliseum.
What’s Next? Lehigh awaits the winner of tonight’s Notre Dame/Xavier game. And after watching the performance the Mountain Hawks put on tonight against Duke, no one should doubt their ability to win a game against either of those teams. Their only glaring weakness — size in the post — would make a meeting with Notre Dame a problem, but who really wants to count out this team now?