Mountain Hawks begin NCAA Tournament journey against West Virginia Sunday

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – About to compete and represent the Patriot League in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, the 13th-seeded Lehigh women’s basketball team is set to face fourth-seeded West Virginia Sunday at 8 p.m. inside Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. The matchup will be aired live on ESPN U with internet audio on Lehighsports.com with Matt Markus (PxP) and Steve Lomangino (Color) on the call.
 
For the first time in 11 years, the Lehigh is playing on the national stage. The Mountain Hawks won their fourth Patriot League Championship in program history on Sunday afternoon, taking down second-seeded Boston University, 64-54 on the road at Case Gym.
 
Fourth-seeded Lehigh defeated the top two seeds in the Patriot League (Bucknell and Boston U.) to claim the title. The Mountain Hawks are the first team since Bucknell in 2008 to win the Patriot League title on the road.
 
Sophomore wing Frannie Hottinger was excellent once again against the Terriers, pouring in 21 points with four rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting. Junior forward Emma Grothaus continued her excellent tournament with 12 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes and is currently averaging a near double-double (14.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg) through three postseason games, earning Patriot League Tournament MVP honors.
 
Junior guard Megan Walker stepped up down the stretch, eventually helping Lehigh put the game out of reach with 10 points, two steals and a pair of rebounds and 3-pointers. Senior guard Mary Clougherty played 29 minutes off the bench with seven points and six rebounds while freshman forward Jamie Behar contributed eight points and four boards.
 
While the team shot 41.1 percent (23-for-56) from the field in the contest, 3-point shooting was not really a factor, just like against Bucknell as the Mountain Hawks shot just 30.4 percent (7-for-23) from beyond-the-arc.
 
Defensively, Lehigh held Boston University in check, as the Terriers shot 32.9 percent (23-for-70) from the field and just 20 percent (5-for-25) from beyond-the-arc, getting to the free throw line for just three shots.
 
The Mountain Hawks are winners of four straight games dating back to a Feb. 22 victory at Lafayette to close out the regular season. Lehigh 3-0 to begin March and are winners of nine of their last 10 games in the month over the last three seasons.
 
No. 17/20 and fourth-seeded West Virginia has had an extremely solid season to this point, coming into the NCAA Tournament with a 21-6 record following a Big 12 Championship Game defeat to No. 5/6 Baylor, 76-50 on Sunday afternoon.
 
The Mountaineers had been coming off two Big 12 tournament wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State en route to the final round.
 
But offense has been an issue for Mike Carey’s squad as of late, scoring 70 or more points in six of its last eight regular season games heading into the Big 12 Tournament, but didn’t register 60 in all three of the tournament contests.
 
Unlike Lehigh’s prominence in the Top 20 of many national categories this season, West Virginia still has a mark within the top 100 of many categories, led by 16th in free throws made (369), 17th in assists (417), 22nd in rebounds (1,026), 47th in 3-point field goal percentage (35.0), 50th in field goal percentage (43.9), 55th in scoring offense (72.7) and 58th in steals (206).
 
Like the Mountain Hawks, West Virginia has three players averaging double-figures in scoring led by Kysre Gondrezick (19.9), Esmery Martinez (13.6) and Kirsten Deans (13.6). Martinez is averaging a double-double with 11.7 rebounds per game as well, while Gondrezick averages 2.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals per contest thus far. The redshirt-senior was most recently named an All-America Honorable Mention by the Associated Press. At 982 career points, she is just 18 from 1,000.
 
This is WVU’s first appearance in an NCAA Tournament since 2016-17 when beating Elon in the first round, 75-62 before falling to #4/3 Maryland, 83-56 in the second round.
 
The NCAA Tournament first round matchup with the Mountaineers will be just the second all-time between the two programs. The first time the two programs met was back on Dec. 27, 1999 in the Tulane/Doubletree Classic in New Orleans.
 
The Mountain Hawks (5-6) by 13 at the half and never looked back, taking an 89-73 victory over WVU (4-4). Four players scored in double-digits as Anne Tierney and Danielle Baldwin led the way with 22 points while Sara Hessel added 18. with Gina Zang pouring in 11.
 
Sue Troyan was the head coach of the team in just her fifth season at the helm of the program.

The Patriot League is 1-27 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, falling in 26 straight contests since Holy Cross won as the 11-seed over Maryland in 1991, the very first year of Patriot League women’s basketball.

A win over West Virginia on Sunday would mark not only the first NCAA Tournament victory for the Mountain Hawks, but also just the seventh No. 13 seed in NCAA Tournament history and the first since Marist in 2012 to pull off the upset.

 

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Date: March 21, 2021
Opponent: No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Arena/Capacity: Bill Greehey Arena/3,800
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Lehigh’s Record: 10-5, 10-5 Patriot League
West Virginia’s Record: 21-6, 13-5 Big 12
Series: Lehigh leads, 1-0
TV: ESPNU w/ Roy Philpott and Brooke Weisbrod
Internet Audio: Lehighsports.com w/Matt Markus (PxP) and

Steve Lomangino (Color)