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December 29, 2012

Bryant stuns Lehigh, 80-79, on road

BULLDOGS POST ROAD STUNNER ONCE AGAIN, TOPPLE LEHIGH, 80-79, SATURDAY NIGHT

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Down one with just 6.3 seconds to play, senior captain Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio) drove inside and looped a shot up and in from underneath the basket to put the Bulldogs on top for the final time, as the Bryant University men's basketball team once again shocked its opponent on the road, topping Lehigh University, 80-79, at Stabler Arena Saturday night.

After turning the ball over with 42 seconds left on the clock and the score 79-78 in favor of the Mountain Hawks (9-3), however, it looked as though the chance to get the win may not happen. But with the ball in the hands of the nation's second-leading scorer in Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, the Bulldogs (7-4) dug in on defense, forcing a key travel out of the senior as he tried to launch a long jumper with the shot clock expiring, giving the Bulldogs one last shot to pull out the victory.

Junior guard Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia) inbounded the ball to Dobbs – who scored 12 of his 17 points in the second frame – as the final six seconds ticked away, and the floor general would get the job done when his team needed it most, leaving just 1.3 remaining on the clock with the Bulldogs holding an 80-79 edge.

B.J. Bailey would launch a pass across the court with the hope of a quick tip in, but neither team would get a clean look at the ball as the buzzer set off celebration from the Bulldog bench.

The loss was just the third of the year for the Mountain Hawks and the first at home for last year's NCAA tournament sweethearts, as the Bulldogs pull out their second true upset stunner of the season after topping Boston College last month, also on the road.

McCollum's 34 points led the game, but the Bulldogs saw four players finish in double-figures in a complete team effort, including the second double-double of the season from junior forward Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.). Francis, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds at halftime, ended the day with 21 points and a game-high 14 boards, tying his career mark. Sophomore guard Dyami Starks (Duluth, Minn.) added 20 points, including four triples and a 6-for-6 mark from the charity stripe, while Dobbs went 7-of-10 from the field for 17 points, adding five rebounds and five assists in 38 minutes. Sophomore Joe O'Shea (Burlington, Vt.) tied his career high with 15 points, including four trifectas of his own, along with two steals and a block.

As a team, Bryant shot 46.7 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from long range, with nearly identical numbers coming from the Lehigh bench (46.3 and 47.8 percent, respectively). Holden Greiner also picked up a double-double for the host Mountain Hawks (16 points, 10 rebounds), but it was the Bulldogs who held the advantage on the glass all night long, eventually outrebounding their opponents, 37-27.

The second half alone would feature six ties and eight lead changes, with Bryant taking the largest edge of the frame – just six points – on Francis's opening basket 21 seconds in. But the hosts would maneuver a 10-point swing capped off by a McCollum three with 16:45 left in the game for a 52-48 lead, forcing the Black and Gold to chase over the next three minutes.

With 13:34 to go, Bryant would reclaim the lead, 58-56, on a Dobbs 3-pointer – his second of the half and third of the game – and the senior point guard would follow with a fastbreak layup to give the visitors a 60-56 edge with 12:28 remaining.

A McCollum trifecta knotted the game for just the second time, 62-62, midway through the stanza, but the Bulldogs wouldn't let the home side edge out in front, taking another four-point lead as the clock ticked under eight and upping it to a five-point advantage, 71-66, with 5:11 left on the clock.

But when O'Shea took his third foul and sent McCollum to the line to hit two free throws, the tide started to shift toward the Mountain Hawks. McCollum would follow his makes from the stripe with a deep trey with 4:39 to play – Lehigh's first basket since the 9:02 mark – tying the game at 71-71.

The home side put Starks on the line for two of his own going the other way, but Bryant's lead would not last long once again, as Francis fouled McCollum as he let loose a shot from downtown, sending the sharpshooter to the line for three makes and a 74-73 Lehigh advantage.

The teams traded leads three more times in the next 60 seconds, ending in a long Starks three that gave Bryant a one-point edge, 78-77. But a fourth foul on Maynard put Mackey McKnight at the line, where he hit both freebies for a 79-78 advantage to set up the dramatic final seconds.

The first half saw less back and forth action, as the Bulldogs broke out in front with 11 uninterrupted points just over three minutes into the shootout to take a 16-7 lead they would not relinquish before the intermission. The run was sparked by three-straight Starks trifectas in a 62-second span.

Bryant would up its lead to 10 by the 13-minute mark, 24-14, and while Lehigh cut into it for a time, O'Shea pushed the visitors back up by eight with his first triple of the game with 9:21 to play. But the Bulldogs would be held scoreless over the next 2:40, and McCollum would score five-straight points to cut the lead to just three, 29-26, with seven to go before the break.

After four Francis points, O'Shea would give the Bulldogs the boost they needed to stay out in front, nailing his second of four first-half threes as the clock ticked under five minutes in the frame for a 36-30 edge. O'Shea would score nine of Bryant's final 11 points of the frame, giving the Bulldogs a 44-40 edge at the intermission.

The 80-79 victory marked Bryant's first win over Lehigh in three tries and moved the Bulldogs to 2-1 against the Patriot League in 2012-13. Bryant wrapped up non-league action as well as the 2012 calendar year with the road win to post the program's best non-conference record in the Division I era.

Bryant returns to action Thursday, Jan. 3, when the Bulldogs will face Northeast Conference competition for the first time in the 2012-13 campaign, taking on Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa., at 7 p.m.

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