Mere hours after Norfolk State provided the NCAA tournament with its first Cinderella, fellow No. 15 seed Lehigh may have one-upped the Spartans. The Mountain Hawks took out one of college basketball’s elite in enemy territory, upsetting No. 2 seed Duke, 75-70, in a South region round-of-64 game at Greensboro Coliseum.
Lehigh led much of the game, and just like Norfolk State’s shocking win over No. 2 seed Missouri earlier in the day, the Mountain Hawks continued to hit clutch shot after clutch shot when the Blue Devils tried to mount a charge down the stretch. That’s even more impressive considering Friday’s win is Lehigh’s first NCAA tournament victory in school history.
The Mountain Hawks become just the sixth No. 15 seed ever to defeat a No. 2 seed, and the only Patriot League team other than Bucknell to win a game in the NCAA tournament. Lehigh was led by guard C.J. McCallum, who scored a game-high 30 points and hit the decisive three-pointer when Duke cut Lehigh’s lead to 56-54 with 2:28 remaining in the game.
But that didn’t mean McCollum was immune to some late-game jitters. The 83 percent free throw shooter missed two foul shots with 36 seconds left, and then Duke’s Austin Rivers was fouled by B.J. Bailey while shooting a three-pointer on the Blue Devils’ ensuing possession.
Rivers only made 2 of 3 from the charity stripe, and Lehigh’s Jordan Hamilton raced down the court for a breakaway dunk. The Mountain Hawks then sank enough free throws in the waning moments to seal another March shocker.
Forward Gabe Knutson also had 17 points and eight rebounds for Lehigh, which advances to face Notre Dame or Xavier in the round of 32 Sunday.
Duke trailed throughout the first half but entered halftime with a two-point lead courtesy of forward Mason Plumlee’s ability to score inside against the smaller Mountain Hawks. Plumlee finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Rivers chipped in 19 points. But it wasn’t enough for Krzyzewski to avoid just his third round of 64 loss in 28 NCAA tournament appearances.
Former All-Mets Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston staked the Blue Devils to a 37-32 lead early on in the second half with five-consecutive points, but the Mountain Hawks proved resilient, responding with a 7-0 run.
Rivers came right back with a three-pointer of his own, but Lehigh was no longer intimidated by the mighty Blue Devils. The Mountain Hawks quickly embarked on an 8-0 run that McCollum capped off with a three-pointer that gave them a 47-42 lead at the under-12 media timeout.
Duke soon re-gained the lead 49-47 on the heels of a 7-0 surge, but Lehigh’s Mackey McKnight hit a three-pointer to put the Mountain Hawks back on top by one. They would never trail again.
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