Bryant caps non-league slate at Lehigh

Photo by Tom O'Brien
Photo by Tom O'Brien


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The Bulldogs return from a six-day holiday break and hit the road for Saturday's 7:00 p.m. matchup against Patriot League power Lehigh University at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa. Fans can listen to the game live on WOON 1240AM or at

The Bulldogs and the Mountain Hawks have faced off twice before, with Lehigh taking double-digit victories in both previous outings. The series opened in Pennsylvania in November 2010, with the home side taking an 88-68 victory at Stabler Arena. Last year in their first visit to the Chace Athletic Center, the Mountain Hawks saw the same result on New Year's Eve, topping the Black and Gold, 72-55.

Senior C.J. McCollum ranks second in the nation in points per game at 24.9, singlehandedly accounting for more that 30 percent of Lehigh's scoring average. McCollum is one of four players to average double figures and leads the team from long range, converting from beyond the arc 51.9 percent of the time, good for seventh nationally in 2012-13. Sharpshooter Gabe Knutson paces Lehigh with a .594 shooting clip from the floor (21st nationally) while averaging 17.4 points per contest. Holden Greiner paces the side on the glass with 6.0 boards per outing to compliment 10.6 points per game while Mackey McKnight adds 12.6 points per contest with a team-high 60 assists. As a unit, Lehigh is ranked in the nation's top 10 in three different categories, including leading the Division I ranks in 3-point shooting percentage (44.4 percent). The Mountain Hawks rank second in free throw percentage (80.3 percent) and ninth overall in scoring offense, averaging 86.1 points per game each time out. Lehigh shoots 48.3 percent from the field, good for 23rd in the national rankings.

Now-junior Claybrin McMath scored a career-high 14 points to lead the Bulldogs at home, but Bryant couldn't contain the offensive power of C.J. McCollum, who scored 34 points to pace Lehigh to a 72-55 win in Smithfield Dec. 31, 2011. Gabe Knutson collected the only double-double of the outing with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while three Bulldogs finished with double-digit points as Raphael Jordan and Alex Francis added 12 and 10, respectively. Bryant kept the game close through the opening 10 minutes, but a 25-8 run midway through the first half blew the game open for a 37-18 halftime margin from which the Bulldogs could never recover. Bryant did, however, outscore the Mountain Hawks in the second frame, 37-35, as no Lehigh player outside McCollum and Knutson scored more than five points in the contest.

Bryant enters Saturday's matchup 1-8 against current Patriot League members in its short Division I history, earning its first win over the conference in 10 all-time meetings earlier this month with a 70-59 victory over Army. Six of Bryant's tilts against Patriot League constituents have come against the Black Knights (1-5), with two more coming against Lehigh (0-2) and one  against both Bucknell (0-1) in 2009-10 and Navy (0-1) earlier this season. Saturday's game marks the final of three Patriot League matchups for the Bulldogs not just this year, but this month, after hosting Army Dec. 1 and traveling to Navy Dec. 10. A victory would give Bryant a winning record against the conference on the 2012-13 campaign.

With last Saturday's 79-66 win over Dartmouth College, Bryant guaranteed itself a winning non-conference record for the first time in the Division I era. The Bulldogs enter Saturday's game against Lehigh, their final non-league outing of the year, with a 6-4 overall record. A win against the Mountain Hawks would also ensure the Bulldogs a winning record in each of the season's first two months of play (3-2 in November, 3-2 in December entering final contest).

Bryant's 90.5 percent conversion (19-of-21) from the free throw line last Saturday against the Big Green not only marked a new season best, but also marked the first time in the Division I era that the Bulldogs have eclipsed the 90 percent mark from  the charity stripe in a single game. Bryant was awarded just a single, unconverted free throw in the opening 20 minutes but was sent to the line 20 times in the second frame, missing just once for the 19-of-21 mark at game's end. Senior Frankie Dobbs (6-6), junior Corey Maynard (4-4), rookie Shane McMaughlin (3-3), sophomore Dyami Starks (2-2) and junior Alex Francis (1-1) were all perfect from the charity stripe in the outing. The .905 clip ranks atop the Division I single-game record books and sits 17th all time.

Since making the jump to Division I four and a half seasons ago, Bryant is 0-4 in the final game of the calendar year. One of those losses came at the hands of Saturday's opponent Lehigh (a 72-55 loss at home Dec. 31, 2011), while the Bulldogs have lost the other three on the road against Brown (Dec. 31, 2010), Indiana (Dec. 28, 2009) and Mount St. Mary's (Dec. 29, 2008).

The Bulldogs have fared slightly better in the first game of the calendar year, going 1-3 at the DI level. Bryant's only such win came in its first Division I season, as the Black and Gold topped Yale at home, 69-58, on January 2, 2009. The team's year-starting losses came at the hands of Cornell on the road (Jan. 2, 2010), Monmouth on the road (Jan. 3, 2011) and Robert Morris at home (Jan. 5, 2012).

Coach Tim O'Shea approaches his 150th-career win as a head coach and enters Saturday's contest with 146. Meanwhile, the Bryant men's basketball program sits just a single win away from its 650th all time.

For the first time this season, and the first time since January 2011, the Bulldogs saw five players record double-digit points against Dartmouth in the team's Dec. 22 win. Senior Frankie Dobbs tied his season high with a team-leading 19 points, while junior Corey Maynard chipped in a season-best 15, junior Alex Francis added 13, and sophomore transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O'Shea chipped in 12 and 10, respectively. The last time five Bryant players scored 10 points or more was January 27, 2011 against Wagner. The Bulldogs have twice this season seen four players finish a game in double figures, both occurances coming against service academies (vs. Army Dec. 1; at Navy Dec. 10).

For the third time this season, the Bulldogs finished their Dec. 22 win over Dartmouth shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. The team's 50.9 percent clip was the third highest mark of the season, following 52.1 percent and 54.7 percent performances against Yale (Dec. 5) and the University of New Hampshire (Nov. 17), respectively. It was, however, the first time this season the Bulldogs have finished over 50 percent without shooting 50 percent on both halves as well. Against the Big Green, the Bulldogs made up for their 34.4 percent first-half shooting performance by converting at a 73.9 percent clip in the second, as the team missed just six second-frame shots (17-23) to finish the game 28-for-55 from the field.

Bryant scored 54 points in the second half against Dartmouth, marking the second time this season the Bulldogs have surpassed 50 points in a single stanza (51 in first half vs. Binghamton). Both the Bulldogs' 54 points and their 73.9 second-frame shooting percentage marked the highest single-frame outputs of the year.

Senior point guard Frankie Dobbs is on his own road to becoming a 1,000-point scorer, needing just 59 more to hit the mark. All but 60 of his 941-career points have be scored as a Bulldog after Dobbs spent his rookie season at Ohio University. Despite missing the first game of his career Dec. 10 at Navy, if Dobbs continues to average 12.8 points per game in a Bryant uniform, he will score his 1,000th point in the 15th game of the season — Saturday, Jan. 12 on the road at Central Connecticut. 

After scoring 22 and 19 points, respectively, against Yale Dec. 5, sophomore guard Dyami Starks and junior forward Alex Francis each eclipsed the 100-point mark in just the seventh game of the 2012-13 season. Starks passed the 150-point mark just five days later against Navy on Dec. 10, and fifth-year senior point guard Frankie Dobbs joined the pair as the team's third 100-point scorer of the season with his 19-point performance against Dartmouth Dec. 22.

For the fifth-consecutive season, all Bryant University basketball home games and select road contests can be heard LIVE on WOON 1240 AM. Veteran sportscaster Jon Wallach of 98.5 FM The Sports Hub Boston returns to call the action as the voice of the Bulldogs, alongside color analyst Tristan Hobbes.

The Bulldogs leave non-conference play behind as they open 2012-13 Northeast Conference action Thursday, Jan. 3 on the road against Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa. (7 p.m.).