Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bucknell Bison 82 at Lehigh Mountain Hawks 76 (NCAA Basketball, Patriot League) - January 11, 2016

With the NCAA championship football game taking place Monday night, the live sporting schedule was a bit sparse. Now that I finally realized how entertaining college basketball can be, especially at the mid-major level, though, I always check ESPN's NCAA hoops schedule to see if any teams are playing nearby. I still couldn't tell you where most of these schools are located so just looking at a basic schedule is not enough, I need the hometowns as well. So I was happy to discover that the Lehigh Mountain Hawks of the Patriot League were at home, hosting Bucknell at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, PA, just east of Allentown.

The main campus of Lehigh University is in downtown Bethlehem, but Stabler Arena is located about three miles south of the city on the Goodman campus. The main street to get there is called Mountain Road, for a very good reason, as it traverses a large hill. If you have a small car, don't take the shortest route through the main campus, which is extremely hilly, but use Route 378 to bypass the up and down.

Stabler Arena was named for the parents of a donor, and not the late Oakland quarterback. Parking here is free and tickets are $11 for reserved seats. It was quite chilly on this night, so we didn't have to worry about our tickets being damaged and invalidated as on the sign above. Never seen that warning before.

With the weather turning very cold and the football game on, few fans were there early. There was a TV cameraman at the entrance to record all the fools who would brave the chill for this one.

The court has seats on all sides, with the blue seats reserved while the yellow ones are free seating. The far end zone in the picture below was closed off, but with just over 1,000 on hand for this one, finding a spot was not a problem. The students sit in the blue seats in the foreground below. You can also see that Lehigh is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The mascot is a hawk of course, but he is rather quiet, generally watching the game and blocking the view of students.

There is not much else to talk about here as this venue is fairly simple, with no bells and whistles. Stabler Arena is used for many other events and has a capacity of 6,000 so it is easy to navigate when it is nearly empty. Normally gates are external entrances but here they are the breezeways into the seating bowl, and clearly marked as you can see below.

Lehigh's claim to fame was their first-round upset of Duke back in 2012, when they were led by C.J. McCollum, now playing with Portland in the NBA. This season they were off to a 4-11 start (2-2 in conference) though they had scheduled some tough opponents including #12 Virginia and #15 Purdue. Bucknell, based out of Lewisburg, PA was 7-8 but 4-0 in the Patriot League. These two squads were the top ranked in the conference in preseason polls, but so far only the Bison had met those expectations.

The first half was close for a while, with several lead changes, but Bucknell (black and orange uniforms) ended with a 17-4 run to take a 43-29 lead into the break.

The second half saw the officiating take over. There were 11 fouls called in the first 6 minutes as the refs started whistling everything, with many infractions coming away from the ball. Bucknell was clearly frustrated with the tightness as Lehigh were in the bonus (7 Bucknell fouls) with 14 minutes left and the double bonus (10 fouls) with 11 minutes to go. This led to a parade of free throws for the Mountain Hawks, who clawed back within a point at 53-52 after Tim Kempton (#32 below, son of the former Raptor of the same name and 2015 Patriot  League Player of the Year) made two free throws to start the double bonus.

Lehigh never got closer than that though, as Bucknell scored on four of their next five possessions to take a 64-56 lead. The fouls continued and Lehigh used the charity stripe to their advantage to keep things interesting at 67-63. But after Bucknell's Nana Foulland (aptly-named on this night) sank a jumper and Ryan Frazier and Stephen Brown followed with treys in quick succession, the Bison had a 75-63 lead and the game was essentially over except for a few more fouls. A last-second three from Lehigh made the score 82-76 for the visitors, who should be worth watching come tournament time.

Kempton led all scorers with 29 points, quite impressive given that he was in foul trouble for much of the evening.  The difference in the game was long-range shooting: Bucknell was 11/22, while Lehigh was only 5/17. Their three-point accuracy allowed the Bison to overcome a 24-17 disadvantage in fouls that led to Lehigh getting an extra eight shots from the line.


Lehigh is a very eco-friendly university, recycling basketballs instead of just throwing them out.

This was active NCAAM basketball court #34. That is not even 10% of the total.



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