Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
So Lehigh was losing at halftime, but outside of the Mountain Hawks looking anything but dominant, the Patriot League Tournament opened with chalk.
Chalk, chalk, chalk... That is probably something that we won't be talking about when the NCAA Tournament starts. But for the Patriot League Tournament, it seems just about right.
The first round of the tournament kicked off at the favored seeds' homes and all of them passed their tests with flying colors. Well, maybe all except Lehigh.
The Mountain Hawks trailed Colgate by four at halftime, by no means a difficult margin to overcome. But at the time, the Red Raiders were shooting 50 percent from the floor and the leading scorer, Murphy Burnatowski was also shooting 50 percent and the only player in the game with double-digit scoring.
It didn't look good.
But let's take a look around the rest of the league before we discuss the comeback.
Bucknell took care of business behind, oh who else, Mid-Major 5 star Mike Muscala. The center had 15 points, 13 rebounds and a block as the Bison stampeded past Navy, 58-42.
This one was never really close as Bucknell had a 10-point lead that they toyed with for most of the half. That with Muscala not scoring from the floor in the first half. He had just five points at halftime, all from the free throw line, but was building an impressive rebounding effort.
With two minutes gone in the second, he was already at 11 boards, and looked headed for a big number. That the game was long-since decided probably contributed to him only clearing the glass 13 times (The Mid-Major 5 still salutes this performance, especially since it means another game in a couple of days).
Joe Willman had 10 points and seven rebounds for Bucknell.
Navy, which shot just 30.6 percent from the floor (side note: Bucknell wasn't exactly lighting the nets on fire, but the rebounds more than made up for it), had no players in double figures. Frosh Tilman Dunbar had nine points, three assists and two steals in the loss.
Meanwhile, Ella Ellis and Army had no issues taking care of American, 65-44. The Eagles shot just 30.9 percent from the floor and went 1-for-11 from 3-point range, essentially killing any chance they may have had in this one.
Ellis had 16 points and six boards to lead the Black Knights, while the team went 9 of 16 from long range.
Army also had a major edge on the glass, grabbing 40 rebounds to American's 29.
Tony Wroblicky had 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
Ellis and Muscala will face off in the semifinals Saturday.
In the other half of the bracket, Lafayette dominated Holy Cross 77-54, after leading at halftime by 14 points.
This was the case of the Leopards just having too many weapons (2) for Holy Cross to counter. Tony Johnson had 19 points, seven rebounds and give assists for Lafayette while Seth Hinrichs added 20 points and four assists in the win.
Holy Cross star Dave Dudzinski tried to counter with 22 points (9-for-16 FG) of his own, and eight rebounds to go with it, but no one else on the team proved to be much of a help.
It also didn't help that Lafayette shot 51.9 percent from the floor, while swatting away eight of Holy Cross' attempts (Levi Giese had three blocks). The Leopards were also crisp with the passing, assisting on 20 of the 28 made shots in the game.
We now return you to your regularly schedule comeback already in progress.
Lehigh used a 10-0 run early in the second half to help climb back and establish a lead that the Mountain Hawks would not concede. The final tally said 71-64, but the liner notes to that win was "WOAH!". This was a team that I lost confidence in after McCollum went down.
This wasn't a team built for deep tournament runs, be it Patriot League or otherwise, not without McCollum on the floor.
That was taking this team back to that early season game when we watch the Mountain Hawks struggle when their star went to the bench as they took on Baylor. Granted Gabe Knutson (who tallied 21 points and seven rebounds in this one) was also unavailable for that game, but it was the leadership in the backcourt that was missing.
Mackey McKnight (4 points, 9 assists) became a better player as the season progressed, having to deal without his mentor on the floor in front of him. But he isn't going to be able to replace him long term; he just doesn't have the shooting ability that McCollum possesses. Then again, not many people could replace the star guard (especially considering that we picked him as a second-team All-American to begin the season).
It is unlikely that McCollum returns, given his NBA aspirations, and the work that he has been able to put in once getting rid of his crutches.
That means a lot of hoping against the Leopards on Saturday after Lafayette beat them twice in the regular season.
Holden Greiner added 15 points and eight rebounds in the win. Burnatowski finished with 23 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in the loss.