Tony Johnson propels Lafayette to big win over rival Lehigh
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 20:02
Lafayette is officially in control of its own destiny. With a raucous, sold-out crowd on hand, the Leopards rode a 29-point effort from senior Tony Johnson to a 79-71 home win over Lehigh.
With the victory, the Leopards (15-14 overall, 8-4 Patriot League) wrested control over the second seed from the Mountain Hawks (18-8, 8-4) and earned a season sweep over their arch-nemesis.
Johnson was dominant for the majority of the game. He hit 10 of 12 (.833 FGP) shots from the field, including a perfect five for five from the three-point line, to bring in a game-high 29 points for the Leopards. After his first miss with 14:46 left in the first half, Johnson went on to make nine straight field goals. His final shot, a failed layup with 1:12 left, was his only other miss.
In Lafayette’s previous two games against Bucknell and Holy Cross, Johnson nailed game-winning shots with less than five seconds to go.
“The kid’s got a lot of confidence right now,” Lehigh forward Holden Greiner ‘13 said. “He’s hit big shot after big shot and that’s what senior point guards do, they step up and make plays for their team. He’s done that three games in a row now.”
Johnson has scored 18 points or more in the past four games, and hasn’t shot below .500 in the past three. He’s also averaged five assists and 2.3 steals per game in the past three contests.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Johnson said of his three-game stretch. “Every game I’ve had a little more confidence going into the next one, so that’s allowed me to stay aggressive this entire time.”
Lafayette did have to overcome some obstacles early on. The Mountain Hawks led by as much as 10 in the second half, and Greiner put on a show that nearly matched Johnson’s. The Lehigh forward went 10-14 from the floor and hit two out of three treys en route to putting up 27 for the Mountain Hawks. Gabe Knutson ‘13 chipped in 19 and a game-high eight rebounds. Halftime adjustments from Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon and big time threes from Levi Giese ‘13, Bryce Scott ‘16 and Johnson quickly closed the gap. Johnson’s fifth three-pointer with 3:34 to go set the crowd on fire and gave Lafayette a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the contest.
“We definitely want to give Lafayette credit for being able to make the plays they did,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. “They answered in a pressure situation by knocking down shots. Obviously, we had some breakdowns and some miscues, but I’d like to, out of respect and courtesy to Lafayette, keep the focus on Lafayette.”
The Leopards are seeded second in League, but to keep their spot they must win the final two games against Colgate and American.
Army beat American Saturday to stay within a game of Lafayette. They would take Lafayette’s place should the Leopards slip. Lehigh continues to hang about despite losing their past three games.
“We can only do what we can do,” O’Hanlon said. “At the end of the day, we still have to go up to Colgate and play Colgate, and that’s not an easy place to play. Colgate beat Lehigh up there, it’s that hard of a place to play.”
Lafayette travels to Hamilton, N.Y. Wednesday for a critical matchup with the Raiders.