Northwestern head coach Dan Eddinger knew he had his hands full in facing Colonial League rival Northern Lehigh. The situation did not get any better when his starting center and point guard were scratched.
The Bulldogs grabbed an early lead and then blew the game open late as they rolled to a 58-28 win.
"We played tonight without our starting center and it's tough when you go up against a good team let alone a tall team," Eddinger said. "I thought our kids battled pretty hard and we knocked down some jumpers. In the second half we struggle to shoot the ball."
Just over a minute into the third quarter, Northwestern guard Naveed Hadian drained a pair of free throws to narrow the Northern Lehigh lead to 28-21. The defenses dominated the remainder of the quarter before a basket by Devin Glose and a three-pointer by Thatcher George as the quarter ended pushed the Bulldog lead to 33-21.
After Hadian's free throws, the Northern Lehigh defense clamped down and shut out the Tiger offense for nearly 13-minutes.
Northern Lehigh's height controlled the boards with Caleb Johnson grabbing 14 rebounds, Josh Landsberger nabbing eight, and Lucas Pierce having as many rebounds as shots blocked (5).
"Defensively, we really picked it up. Coach (Miller) wanted us to get in up into them and make them beat us and and not us beat ourselves," Glose said. "We had the size on them so we definitely feel like we controlled the board.
The defense sparked a 23-0 Northern Lehigh run that included George's second trey and an alley-oop basket by Johnson off an inbounds play. The spurt pushed the Bulldog advantage to 51-21. The Tigers' Mason Schuler broke the dryspell with 2:08 left in the game.
"We gave up seven points in the third quarter but we only scored three and then the wheels came off in the fourth quarter," Eddinger said. "To their credit, they are a good basketball team. They are well coached, they made adjustments, and they made shots in the fourth quarter."
Northwestern's hustle and fire matched the Bulldogs in the first half. Anytime the Bulldogs got any kind of lead, the Tigers would pull close.
"We just couldn't get into the flow," Glose said. "We've been talking about how we've come out slow and how we need to pick it up. We got off to a little bit of a fast start and we died off a bit. We need to keep the intensity up and stay focused for four quarters."
After recent slow starts, the Bulldogs were able comeback from a 10-point deficit against Southern Lehigh, but against league leader Salisbury, the slow start spelled doom as the comeback fell short.
"Unfortunately, it's been the story of our last couple of games. We don't play particularly well in the first half and Northwestern had a lot to do with that," Bulldog coach Jeff Miller said. "We came out with a different attitude in the second half and held them to three points over the first 13 or 14 minutes of the half and then we were able to extend the lead."
Glose, whose all-around game paced the Bulldogs (15-3, 10-3), led all scorers with 12 points.
Hadian's nine points led the Tigers (2-17, 1-12).
Hadian 3-3-4-9, Maher 0-0-4-0, Rivera 3-0-0-8, Perry 0-0-0-0, Bachman 2-0-0-4, Wagner 1-0-0-2, T. Richardson 1-0-0-3, Bittenbender 0-0-0-0, Schuler 1-0-0-2, Dorney 0-0-0-0. Totals 11-3-8-28.
George 3-0-0-8, Glose 3-6-9-12, Eden 1-1-2-3, Johnson 4-0-0-8, Pierce 2-5-6-9, Dibilio 1-2-2-4, Landsberger 2-3-3-7, J. Pristash 2-0-0-5, Egan 0-0-0-0, Middaugh 1 0-0 2, Shupp 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 0-0 0,Nelmes 0-0-0-0. Totals 19 17-22 58.
Northwestern 4 14 3 7 - 28
Northern Lehigh 10 16 7 25 - 58
Three-pointers: NW - Rivera 2, T. Richardson;NL – George 2, Pristash