Just about every basketball coach preaches defense first. Solid shooting nights come and go, but defense is something a team can do well every night.
That philosophy was on display Tuesday night in New Tripoli as Southern Lehigh's defense was in Northwestern's face all night. The result was plenty of easy baskets inside for the Spartans and a 50-35 Colonial Leauge win.
"We had some size mismatches and we tried to emphasize that when they were in man," said Southern Lehigh head coach Bob Shaffer. "Even bigger than that was the job we did defensively. I thought it was tremendous."
Southern Lehigh's offense was inconsistent early. It turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the game and fell behind early. But because of their defensive effort, the Spartans (5-6 overall, 4-3 Colonial League) turned a 7-4 deficit into a 14-10 lead over the final 4:23 of the first quarter and Northwestern (5-7 overall, 2-5 Colonial League) never got closer than four points the rest of the game.
"They beat us in transition in the first half," said Northwestern head coach BJ Dugan. "At least 10 of their points in the first half were in trasition. We told them before the game that was going to happen. We talked about getting down the floor and we talked about banging the boards because [the Spartan's are] not a great jump shooting team. But what they do they do very well and they're well-coached at it."
Southern Lehigh's first order of business was to limit Northwestern catalyst Kevin Oxley, who scored a team-high 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting from the field.
"The shots he made were well-earned," said Shaffer.
Justin Festa led the Spartans with 16 points as he made four of five attempts from the field and converted all eight of his free throw opportunities.
The Tigers made just 11 of 51 attempts in the game and six of 21 shots from three-point range. The Tigers missed a few lay ups as the Spartans got in the face of all the Tiger shooters all over the court. But most of Northwestern shooting came from the outside.
"That's been an achiles heel of ours offensively," Dugan siad. "We have a tendency to get perimeter oriented and we have to get the ball more to the basket. That will take the pressure off the perimeter game and open up our jump shooters."
The game was marred by a fight that occured late in the third quarter. It started with some pushing and shoving between Southern Lehigh's Ramfis Rodriguez and Northwestern's Toby Koenig and got worse when the players began throwing punches. Both players were ejected and will have to sit out their team's next game.
Fortunately the rest of the players on the floor stayed out of it while referees, coaches and Northwestern faculty subdued the participants. Officials Bob Schanninger and Steve Serensits deserve credit for stopping the incident and not allowing it to escalate.
Sroka 1-0-0-2, Lee 1-0-0-2, Festa 4-8-8-16, Anderson 0-0-0-0, S. Torcivia 0-0-0-0, T. Torcivia 0-0-1-0, Leddy 5-0-0-10, Rodriguez 5-2-3-12, Rockel 0-0-0-0, Mobley 0-0-0-0, Hoffman 3-2-2-8, Dawe 0-0-0-0, Longacre 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-12-14-50.
Lerner 2-2-3-6, Nagle 3-0-0-8, Rivera 1-0-0-2, Roth 0-0-0-0, Koenig 0-0-0-0, Oxley 5-0-0-14, German 0-1-2-1, Collopy 0-2-2-2, Conway 0-0-0-0, Wagner 0-2-2-2, Betz 0-0-5-0, deBruijn 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 11-7-14-35.
So. Lehigh 14 14 12 10 - 50
Northwestern 10 12 4 9 - 35
Three-pointers - SL: none; NW: Oxley 4, Nagle 2.