ROSEMONT, Ill. — With a major opponent like Stanford coming to town Sunday, DePaul (2-1) got caught in a trap game Wednesday against Lehigh (1-4). The Mountain Hawks came out of the gate with high intensity and energy that the Blue Demons failed to match, and the Patriot League underdog led from wire to wire in their 86-74 win.
“They clearly came in today ready to play,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said of the Mountain Hawks. ” I just thought that they outplayed us in the first half with energy and effort.”
DePaul trailed 15 points multiple times in the second half but finally made a dent in Lehigh’s lead late in the second half. Senior forward Jamee Crockett threw down a two-handed dunk in transition to cut the lead to 72-64 with 5:10 remaining.
Junior forward Myke Henry completed a three-point play three minutes later to get the Blue Demons within seven points. Henry finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, posting his first career double-double.
But Lehigh handled DePaul’s fullcourt press and executed down the stretch to hang on for the victory.
“We just didn’t make plays down the stretch to make it close enough where they really felt it,” Purnell said.
The Mountain Hawks led the entire game, and a lot of that was thanks to senior guard Corey Schaefer. Schaefer caught fire in the first half, posting 11 points on 3-for-4 3-point shooting as the Mountain Hawks built a 41-30 halftime advantage.
Schaefer finished with 17 points to lead the Lehigh while sophomore forward Tim Kempton posted 16 points and 11 rebounds. Off the bench, sophomore guard Austin Price added 14 points and junior forward Justin Goldsborough had 10.
The Mountain Hawks shot 9-for-18 from 3-point range.
“We had their shooters identified. We stared at four shooters in the first half and they shot it right over us,” Purnell said. “You need shoe-top closeout, as we call it. You’re right on their shoes. You never give them a dare shot. Almost like, “I dare you to shoot.” That’s what we did on four occasions in the first half, they all go in, and we’re down 11 at the half.”
The Blue Demons made a run nearing the midway point of the second half after falling behind by 15 points. Senior forward Forrest Robinson drained a 3-pointer with 11:57 left and sophomore guard Billy Garrett Jr. followed that with a triple on the next possession. Garrett finished as the Blue Demons’ second-leading scorer for the night with 15 points, but he shot just 2-for-11 from the field.
Henry’s putback one possession later cut Lehigh’s lead to 60-51 and prompted the visitors to call for a timeout.
Even though they were the smaller team from the smaller conference, the Mountain Hawks did not crumble but instead responded positively after the Blue Demons’ spurt. A 9-3 spurt bumped their lead right back to 15 points with 8:37 remaining.
Lehigh always had the response, keeping the Blue Demons from ever getting closer than seven points in the second half.