By: Chris Lynch
The Patriot League might be the most volatile and unpredictable conference in college basketball. The last two years have produced results that make the predictions look foolish, with American winning the 2014 conference title when predicted to finish last, and Army finishing last in 2015 when predicted to win the conference. This year has so far produced another result like the last two.
Lehigh, Saturday’s opponent for the Boston University men’s basketball team, was perdicted to finish in first place in the Patriot League, and they have opened up the season 2-10, including a 7 game losing streak to open the season. The Mountain Hawks lost their first conference game of the season to Army on the 30th. They fell behind early, trailing by as many as 20 points. They fought their way back, but only got it as close as five before losing to the Black Knights.
The Mountain Hawks enter the game with a team that returned much of its unit from last year and has not achieved to the level they are capable of. Most of their struggles have come at the defensive end and from the three point line.
As a team, Lehigh has allowed opponents to score 76.8 points a game, while allowing five opponents to get to 80 or more points in games this season. Lehigh is also being out rebounded 36.4 to 32.3 on the season. Lehigh can score, but much of its offense comes inside, without the ability to rely on their shooters. Lehigh is only shooting 36% from three point range, and has allowed opponents to shoot 37.9% from the three point line.
Lehigh’s Tim Kempton has had an excellent season, averaging a team high 18 points a game and 8.2 rebounds a game. He won the Patriot League’s Player of the Year award in 2015, and has continued his strong play this season. He has kept his team in games for much of the season, but Lehigh has not gotten strong enough performances from the rest of the team to win more games.
The only other Mountain Hawk averaging more than five rebounds a game is Jesse Chuku, at 5.2 a game. There are only two other players averaging double digit points this season, Austin Price at 14 points a game and Kahron Ross at 10.3 points a game.
BU’s defense will have to focus on Kempton, and Lehigh will have to get good scoring from someone else if they are to win.
BU has the formula to exploit Lehigh’s problems. BU has strong shooters in leading scorers Cheddi Mosely and John Papale, and Eric Fanning has sharpener shooting so far this season. He has the highest 3 point shooting percentage, with 46.7%.
BU also has one of the strongest rebounders in the conference in Nathan Dieudonne. He can match Kempton low and is coming off his best game of the season. He was the biggest bright spot in an otherwise bleak second half against Holy Cross, as he scored a career and season high 18 points and hauled in 9 rebounds.
BU will need to be sharp on the defensive side of the court. They are coming off an 80-64 loss to the Crusaders in which they allowed Holy Cross to shoot 53.6% from the field for the game, and were out scored 45-24 in the second half.
After that poor a second half, coach Jones will be sure to remind his team to play a full game and out work a Lehigh team that has struggled against teams that can rebound and shoot, like BU.
This game ends a two game road trip for the Terriers. They will look to close out the trip with some momentum and go home 1-1 in conference play.