Corky does the Valley

From our man Corky Blake of the Express-Times, a look at Lafayette and Lehigh heading into tonight's tournament openers.

Plenty of good stuff on both teams, here.

The most telling quote comes from Lehigh's Nick Monserez:
"I think you saw in our comebacks that we're as good as anyone in the league playing under pressure. I know we'll be more focused because now you know if you lose you go home."
That is the problem. As Gordie Jones pointed out yesterday in the Morning Call:
Lehigh has perfected the art of the near-miraculous comeback.
The emphasis should be on the word "near."

Too often the Mountain Hawks have come out flat, then tried to turn it on as if they could just flip the switch when the mood strikes.

It just does not work that way. And at tournament time, facing what will be back-to-back quality opponents (if they make it to the second back), that is a formula that translates into "Hurry up and melt snow, we want to go golfing."

The reason the Mountain Hawks are 13-14 and seeded fourth is because despite having talent that should be competitive with anybody in the league, they have been woefully inconsistent. In games, and from game to game.

Back in non-conference play, we scratched our heads wondering how this team lost to Columbia and Cornell at home. The answer now is apparent.

This league is greatly improved. As Navy learned the hard way at West Point, even against the lowliest team in the league, you need to bring it for 40 minutes every night.

Another telling point from Corky's piece:
Lehigh's defense has fallen from midseason form when it was ranked high in a number of NCAA categories. The Mountain Hawks failed to yield more than 67 points in any one game and held four teams to less than 60 points through the first seven league games. During their four-game skid, the Hawks are permitting 74 points a game.
Folks, that is a very telling stat. This team didn't suffer a major injury that changed its personnel. Defense is not talent or athleticism, though athleticism sure helps. Defense is an attitude.

Can Lehigh suddenly recapture that attitude? Can the Hawks flip the switch and win three straight in the tournament? Especially considering one of the teams they would likely have to beat, on its own floor, has had that attitude all season long?

Maybe, but don't bet the mortgage payment.

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