WORCESTER, Mass. – The Lehigh women’s basketball team saw their narrow halftime lead dissipate as the shots stopped falling and Holy Cross cruised to a 64-53 win on Saturday afternoon. at Hart Center. The Mountain Hawks (10-4, 2-1 PL) see their five-game winning streak snapped and drop their first Patriot League game of the 2021-22 season. For the first time this season, Lehigh had less than 60 points and saw an eight-game winning streak snapped by forcing more than 15 turnovers (17).
For the third game in a row, senior Emma Grothaus led the Mountain Hawks on offense, scoring a team-high 15 points with seven rebounds and two assists. Senior Megan Walker also hit double digits with 10 points and also had four interceptions on defense. Lehigh was limited to just 32.1 percent (17 for 53) shooting in the contest, while converting just six of 25 3-point attempts.
“We didn’t do a great job of executing our offense or playing at the pace of play that we would like, which led to a bad day of shooting on the offensive side,” the head coach said. Sue Troyan. “Defensively, we struggled to control the defensive boards, we struggled to contain Avery LaBarbera and made too many unusual fouls. All of those factors contributed to a slower pace of play than we would like to play and I think that factored into our attacking woes too.”
Holy Cross ran out of the gates in the first quarter, earning an early 6-0 cushion. The Mountain Hawks got their first points of the game at 5:56 of the first frame on a 3-pointer for Walker. Of them Jamie Behar free throws reduced the Crusaders’ lead to three at 8-5 before the media timeout of 4:53. Coming out of the break, Holy Cross raced 8-0 to lead 16-5 with 3:30 remaining after Kelly Petro’s 3-pointer. Lehigh managed to cut the lead to as little as seven points twice, but the Crusaders fought back with another trey to take a 10-point lead with 1:03 remaining. On two foul shots and a layup on a turnover, Grothaus scored five straight points to cut the deficit to 21-15 heading into the second quarter.
Although Holy Cross shot nearly 50% in the first quarter and the Mountain Hawks converted on just three field goals, Lehigh went 8 for 8 from the free throw line and trailed only by six points.
“We talk a lot about being ‘ready to shoot’ on offense and the importance of all five players being an offensive threat,” Troyan said. “I didn’t think our players were playing with that mentality today and we gave up a number of good looks on the basket to settle for fewer shots and play at a slower pace.”
First year Meghan O’Brien brought the Mountain Hawks within three points with a 3-pointer straight out of the break and while the Crusaders regained a five-point lead, Emma Grothaus’ layup and 3 points from the corner for the second Maddie Albrecht had the game tied at 23 with 7:12 remaining. A 6-0 mini run for Holy Cross gave Holy Cross a six-point lead at 5:20, but Lehigh scored five straight to trail 29-28 at the media timeout with 3:16 left in the half. . Two Madison Demski free throws extended the Crusader lead to three, but the Mountain Hawks’ four straight points to wrap up the half put them ahead by one, 32-31 after 20 minutes of play.
.@walkermegan_ is deadly. ⚡
Stealing and finishing puts the Mountain Hawks back in front! 👏
— Lehigh Women’s Basketball (@LehighWBB) January 8, 2022
Lehigh beat Holy Cross, 17-10 in the second quarter and held the Crusaders just 25 percent (3 for 12) from the field as well as 1 for 3 from beyond the arc. The Mountain Hawks were much more effective shooting the ball, going 7-for-16 from the field and sinking three from long range.
It didn’t take long for Avery LaBarbera to score for Holy Cross to start the game in the second half with a layup after an early break, restoring the Crusaders to the one-point advantage. With 7:11 to go in the quarter, sophomore Mackenzie Kramer sank his first 3-pointer of the game to restore Lehigh to the two-point cushion. Walker was then fouled and headed for the line, making one of two to put the Mountain Hawks ahead by three, 38-35 with 5:32 on the clock. Holy Cross finished the quarter on a 17-7 run to lead, 52-45 going into the fourth quarter.
— Lehigh Women’s Basketball (@LehighWBB) January 8, 2022
Lehigh battled to start the fourth frame, cutting Holy Cross’ lead to just four points with 8:39 left after two free throws for Claire Steele, but that was just the start for the Crusaders, who moved up nine points in the media timeout with 5:14 to play. A 6-2 run put Holy Cross ahead by 13 with 28 seconds left and won by 11 after Walker had a layup at 0:21.
Holy Cross had the advantage in rebounds, 46-25, while leading the way in points on turnovers (14-9), points in the paint (30-20), second chance points (16- 4) and bench points (14 -12). The Crusaders shot 80% (16 to 20) from the charity strip, while the Mountain Hawks shot 81.3% (13 to 16).
Avery LaBarbera was very hard to stop for Holy Cross that day, scoring a game-high 30 points with 17 rebounds, adding three assists and two steals. She also had four 3-pointers. Oluchi Ezemma also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“We knew going into the game that because Avery is playing well, Holy Cross is doing well, so she was a focal point for us on the defensive side of the court,” Troyan said. “She provides the leadership and spark for their team as a pretty dynamic player who has the ability to score in a variety of ways. Obviously we didn’t execute well stopping her carrying their team today .”
Lehigh returns to Stabler Arena on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to host Bucknell in a rematch of last season’s Patriot League semifinal. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+ (subscription required) and on Fox Sports Radio 94.7 FM and 1230 AM. Tickets can be purchased at LehighTickets.com and by calling 610-7LU-GAME.
“Every loss is an opportunity to grow as a program and it’s important that our team apply the lessons learned from our game today into Wednesday’s game against Bucknell,” Troyan said. “Executing our game plan at both ends of the pitch is critical to our team’s success; every player playing with a high level of confidence when they step onto the pitch will also be very important to our overall success.”