Wins can't always be pretty. And Northern Lehigh's 36-22 victory over Northwestern Thursday sure does fit that description.
The Bulldogs shot 30 percent from the field, but used defense and rebounding to control the low-scoring game.
"Tonight we got the turnovers, we just didn't finish," said Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller. "We had many, many lay ups and didn't finish. Give Northwestern credit. They battled and battled."
The Bulldogs (1-1 overall, 1-1 Colonial League) out-rebounded the Tigers 40-23, with 6-foot-5 Caleb Johnson (12 rebounds) and 6-7 Lucas Pierce (8 rebounds) leading the way.
Northwestern (1-3; 0-2) couldn't solve Northern Lehigh's pressure or half-court zone defense. The Tigers made just seven of 32 shots in the game and turned the ball over 18 times.
"It's the first time we've seen a zone that's that big," said Northwestern head coach Dan Eddinger. "That's a tall team and they pounded it on us. Even with all the rebounds they gave up, they only got 36 points and I'm happy with it."
Northern Lehigh's big men are also athletic. Pierce steps out and hits shots, while Johnson mostly stays inside and dominates the boards with his leaping ability.
The Bulldogs grabbed the early lead as Josh Pristash scored seven of his game-high 13 points in the first quarter. The Tigers turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes and fell behind 7-0 early.
Baskets by Pierce and Pristash got the lead up to 13-2 early in the second quarter, but seven Northern Lehigh turnovers in the period kept the Bulldogs from pulling away.
"We're still a little young and we need to get aggressive," said Pristash. "We need to have more court awareness. We need to get better at everything we have to do."
Northwestern was within 17-12 with 2:01 left in the first half before Josh Landsberger and Johnson each scored to make it 21-12 at the break.
Landsberger, a 6-5 center/forward, gives Northern Lehigh a third talented big man to spell Johnson and Pierce or combine with them to make a huge line up.
"Our big men are athletic," said Miller. "Tonight we didn't do a good job seeing the floor. Early we had many opportunities to get the ball inside to our big men and we didn't do it. Fortunately it's only game two and we've got 20 more to play."
Northern Lehigh put the game away early in the second half. Pristash started an 8-1 run with a basket 12 seconds into the third quarter. Pierce had back-to-back baskets during the run, which would be a 12-1 burst going back to the second quarter. A Devin Glose basket capped the run and made it 29-13 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers didn't get closer than 10 points from tying the game the rest of the way.
"I'm happy with how we played defense," said Eddinger, a first-year head coach who takes over a team that won just one game last year. "We have droughts on offense. We know that's going to be an issue. We have to get the kids to run the offense better, but there's no doubt the kids are working hard. We've just got to find a way to put the ball in the hole a little bit better."
Northwestern was led by Matt Rivera's 12 points. The senior made five of his eight shots and had three steals in the loss.
George 0-0-0-0, Egan 0-0-0-0, Shupp 0-0-0-0, Dibilio 0-0-0-0, J. Pristash 6-0-2-13, Glose 2-0-0-4, Eden 0-0-0-0, Middaugh 1-0-0-2, Landsberger 1-1-2-3, Johnson 3-2-4-8, Pierce 3-0-0-6. TOTALS: 16-3-8-36.
Wagner 0-0-0-0, Schuler 0-0-0-0, Hadian 0-0-0-0, Richardson 2-0-0-6, Bittenbender 0-0-0-0, Maher 0-1-2-1, Dorney 0-0-0-0, Rivera 5-0-0-12, Perry 0-0-0-0, Binder 0-3-4-3, Bachman 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 7-4-6-22.
Northern Lehigh 9 12 10 5 – 36
Northwestern 2 10 3 7 – 22
Three-pointers: NL – J. Pristash 1; NW – Richardson 2, Rivera 2.