While Saturday evening will be a night that goes down in American University women's basketball history as junior Liz Leer broke the school's career blocked shots record, the Eagles fell 53-46 to defending conference champion Lehigh in a hard-fought battle in Bethlehem, Pa. The loss snapped AU's eight game winning streak, as the Eagles' suffered their first Patriot League loss of the season.
Lehigh (20-3, 7-1 Patriot League) opened up an 8-5 lead in the first five-plus minutes, but American (14-8, 7-1 PL) responded with a 10-0 spurt over the next 2:38 to take a 15-8 advantage. Leer knocked down two three-pointers during the stretch, along with a Stephanie Anya layup and an Ashley Yencho runner in the lane. After a Lehigh bucket, Lisa Strack followed with a three to give AU an 18-10 lead with 9:24 to play in the first half.
The Mountain Hawks quickly found their rhythm, running off 11 unanswered points over the next six-plus minutes to take a 21-18 lead. Strack broke American's scoreless streak with a layup off a Raven Harris pass with 1:48 to go in the opening stanza. Harris would follow by knocking down a deep three-pointer in the final seconds of the half to knot the score at 25 at halftime.
After an initial Lehigh basket to begin the second half, American rattled off six straight points on buckets by Strack, Leer and Kirk to take a 31-28 advantage. The Eagles went cold, however, for the next 6:23, allowing Lehigh to run off 11 consecutive points before a Michelle Kirk rebound-and-putback layup trimmed the Lehigh lead to six, 39-33 with 11:10 to go.
Lehigh would continue to apply the pressure, eventually opening up an 11-point advantage, 44-33. The Eagles did not quit, going on a 9-1 spurt, capped by a Leer three-point play, to trim the deficit to three, 45-42, with 4:52 to play. But that is as close as American would get down the stretch, as Lehigh held on for the 53-46 victory.
Leer led the Eagles with a game-high 13 points, and added five rebounds and five blocked shots. The junior now has 154 career blocks, as she passed Kirsten Keller for the program's all-time mark. Keller had 152 blocked shots in her career at American from 1991-95.
Strack chipped in nine points and six rebounds for AU, while Harris had seven points and five assists.
Lehigh was paced by Emily Gratch, Erica Prosser and Courtney Dentler, who scored 12, 11, and 10 points, respectively. The victory for the Mountain Hawks is their 30th straight home win, which is the third longest active streak in the country behind Connecticut (55) and Stanford (40).
Both teams shot an equal 33.3 percent from the floor with American (19) actually converting more field goals than Lehigh (17). The difference proved to be Lehigh's advantage at the free-throw line, as the Mountain Hawks were 18-of-24 from the stripe, while AU was only four-of-five in the game.
"It boiled down to Lehigh being the more aggressive team. That was evident in them getting to the free throw line almost 20 more times than we did tonight," commented American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "We had an opportunity with three minutes to go to make it a game, but unfortunately we did not execute in our late game situations."
With Lehigh's victory, American and the Mountain Hawks now sit in a first-place tie in the Patriot League at 7-1.
The Eagles will be back on the road for their next contest, traveling to Lewisburg, Pa., to take on Bucknell on Wednesday, February 10. Game time is set for 7 p.m.