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We need to talk about the Lehigh Mountain Hawks

They’re 1-2, and dangerous.

NCAA Basketball: Lehigh at Syracuse
Tim Kempton is good.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Reed was probably concerned last Sunday.

The Lehigh coach called a timeout with 3:45 left against Princeton, after a nine-point Mountain Hawk second half lead had sunk to just one.

It was just the type of situation he had talked about after an overtime loss to Yale earlier in the week dropped his team to 0-2.

"Yale is a good team. Xavier was a good team, so sitting at 0-2 is not my concern," said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. "My concern is our commitment to make sure that we defend on a consistent basis. We need to have better execution towards end-of-game situations. Unfortunately, today, whether it was turnovers, missing wide open people or taking bad shots, that destroyed us when we need to be able to convert on offense. Defensively, we allowed Yale to shoot 50 percent in the second half and 50 percent in overtime. That's a formula for disaster. That's what I'm disappointed about and that's what I'm frustrated about."

The formula was very different in that final 3:45 against Princeton.

Lehigh outscored the Tigers 12-4, holding Princeton to just 1-for-6 from the floor. On the whole, the Mountain Hawks defended well, allowing just 0.96 points per possession to a potent Tiger offense. It gave Lehigh a badly-needed win, instead of a third straight close loss to a quality team.

An 0-3 record just wouldn’t have felt right on this team.

Reigning two-time Patriot League POY Tim Kempton has been predictably superb, and feasted on a Princeton defense (24 points, 11 rebounds, 8-9 FT) that was battered in the post by BYU’s Eric Mika in its opener. He anchors an offense that has put up good numbers (58.4 eFG%, 45.6 3P%) against three solid-to-good defenses.

And perhaps most critical to the big picture, a new star may have emerged against Princeton. Freshman Jordan Cohen (20 points, 6 assists) got the start at point guard with junior Kahron Ross injured. He didn’t disappoint.

“As he knocked down some open shots and found some open players, he started playing with a little bit of swagger, and that’s exactly what we needed,” senior forward Tim Kempton [told City of Basketball Love after the game].

Ross, an all-Patriot league guard himself, isn’t expected to miss much time. The combination of him, Kempton, sophomore Kyle Leufroy and Cohen gives Reed a core to - as many predicted - win a league title in his tenth season at Lehigh.

It’s about as encouraging a 1-2 start as Reed could ask for, especially with his team immediately addressing some of his concerns.

Lehigh plays at Mississippi St. Nov. 25 before a trip to suddenly-surging Arkansas St. on Nov. 27.