After three games in five days, Virginia Cavaliers basketball has earned its break. Four full days off certainly fits the bill there, and if all goes as expected, today’s matchup might also be considered a bit of a break. While the Lehigh Mountain Hawks have some talent, this game is simply a tune-up before a West Virginia matchup on Tuesday. Expect to see some of the younger guys get some good run in this one, as the starters rest up for the high-tempo Mountaineers.
The Mountain Hawks are just 4-3, including a home loss to Monmouth, who Virginia beat by 20. They have beaten Siena (in OT), Marist (also OT), Princeton and Eastern (a DIII school). Not exactly a glowing resume, although Princeton is a solid squad. The Hoos and Hawks last played in 2015, an 80-54 win for the Hoos. The only other matchup between the two schools was in 1973.
A year ago, Lehigh won 20 games including a sweep of Bucknell, the Patriot League’s NCAA participant. But that team was led by Tim Kempton, two-time Patriot League player of the year, who is currently playing in Israel. It was a big loss, as he was the only real size they had.
This year, the Hawks are led by a backcourt trio of senior PG Kahron Ross along with junior SGs Kyle Leufroy and Lance Tejada (a transfer from ECU). Those three lead the team in scoring and minutes. Tejada is leading the team in shots while taking more than half from 3 point range. He’s making 45%, but he’s just a career 34% shooter, so that number may drop. The opposite is true of Kyle Leufroy. He’s made just 22% of his threes on the year, but is a career 40% shooter. His stroke should return although maybe not this game, as the Hoos are allowing opponents just 25% from beyond the arch. Leufroy scored 14 against the Hoos two years ago on 4/5 from the three.
At just 5’11” 160 pounds, Ross is one of the smaller players in DI. He’s also the best overall player of the bunch. He’s 8/14 from 3 on the year, which is 57%. For his career, he’s at 37%. He’s also averaged about 6 assists per game over a 95 game career. Ross is the all-time assist leader for Lehigh, and had he put up the same numbers in a Virginia uniform, would have a good chance at passing John Crotty for the Cavalier record. Ross had 11 points and 4 assists in the last matchup.
Up front, there really isn’t much. The starters are sophomore Pat Andree and freshman James Karnick. Andree is a stretch 4 and could cause some problems out there on the perimeter. He isn’t going to do much inside, especially against somebody like Isaiah Wilkins, who could work him inside on the glass. Karnick, 6’9” 220 is a skilled interior player and put up 14 and 10 against Pitt. He also had 7 and 9 against a very good USC squad, although a lot of that came late in a blowout loss and had 7 and 12 against Princeton. But Jack Salt is simply too big and too strong for Karnick.
Based on early season results, Lehigh doesn’t do much very well. They generally don’t turn the ball over, ranking 6th in the nation in lowest TO rate. But even though the Hoos are forcing turnovers at a good clip, it isn’t an emphasis of the Pack Line Defense and shouldn’t impact the game very much. Lehigh also shoots the ball pretty well, with their trio of backcourt players.
That is what they’ll try to do: they’ll spread the floor, force one of the UVA bigs to go to the perimeter to guard Pat Andree and they’ll try to knock down enough shots to pull the upset. That strategy has been tried before, with varying degrees of success. VCU shot a lot of 3s and made enough to keep the game close. They arguably “solved” the Pack Line defense, averaging better than a point per game. UNC-G also shot a ton of 3s and kept the game close. But they didn’t shoot it well, and stayed in the game due to offensive rebounds (and some poor offense from the Hoos). Lehigh has neither the talent of VCU nor the front court depth of UNC-G. Their only chance is making a ton of contested 3s and hoping the Hoos are looking ahead to WVU on Tuesday.