Lehigh had not lost by double digits all season. That was until last night when Xavier ended up beating the Mountain Hawks by a dozen. If we glance past the 2012 bracket in a few years, we might not notice this final score on face value. A mid-major conference team beating a Patriot League team — not a big deal on the surface. But this wasn’t Thursday or Friday, this was a Sunday night game. How’d a Patriot League team — which wasn’t even the regular season winner — make it to Sunday night?!
Lehigh was no joke all season. In fact the team can score. They were 28th in the country and averaged over 76 points per game. The team went on to win 27 games and go 11-3 in the Patriot League. But Bucknell was 12-2. As it should be, the two teams met in the Patriot League championship on March 7th. Lehigh won a close game.
Lehigh was dancing.
Going into 2012, Lehigh had never won an NCAA tourney game. The school was 0-4 all-time. That changed in a big way on Friday night.
Lehigh beat Duke. Lehigh beat duke? Lehigh beat Duke!
How’d this happen? Confidence.
Confidence plays a huge role in sports. I’d argue that basketball is among the sports which confidence is most important. That is even elevated at the collegiate level.
Duke not only let this Patriot League team hang around for the whole first half, but this continued for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Duke couldn’t create separation. Eventually the tide shifted and Lehigh took the lead at the 12:28 mark of the second half. From there Duke was in deep.
The Blue Devils confidence was shaken while Lehigh’s was soaring.
How could Duke not shake this team? They couldn’t figure it out. And this was very much the same way America was feeling. It was a bit of disbelief. It seemed nothing was going to stop Lehigh as the second half began to wind down. They were always a step ahead.
Then it happened.
With 0:29 left Austin Rivers went to put a 3-pointer up. The whistle blew. The referee called a foul on Lehigh! Upon watching the play multiple times, I realized this was one of the worst calls of the tourney. No way was this a foul. No one could argue it was. It was not even close. The fix was in, I thought.
I literally said out loud to the room watching the game; “It doesn’t make sense, though. The refs can’t have the Duke moneyline.” And if they have Duke to cover that ship has long since left the port. It was just a straight up awful call.
With a 67-62 lead, Lehigh watched Rivers sink 2 of the 3 free throws — 67-64.
Lucky for the NCAA, Duke never got closer than that.
Two 15 seeds take down their 2 seed counterparts. It’s never happened before, and we may literally never see it happen again. That I am confident of.
[Image via lehighvalleylive.com]