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Lehigh men's basketball team squanders late lead in loss to Loyola University Maryland

Still down two points after pushing and clawing to rally, Loyola University Maryland looked intent on ending the game one way or another.

The shot Andre Walker took from the 3-point arc came contested. He drilled it anyway, delivering a dagger to Lehigh in its Patriot League home opener.

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Lehigh led by 18 points with under 14 minutes to play Thursday. The Mountain Hawks still held a 13-point edge with 6 1/2 minutes to go.

Walker's 3-ball with 0.8 seconds remaining gave Loyola its lone lead. It was the only one that mattered, as the Greyhounds stunned the Mountain Hawks 84-83 at Stabler Arena.

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Lehigh's first home loss of the 2016-17 season came on a night when it led for all but 46 seconds. Two problem areas — consistent defensive intensity and turnovers — burned the Mountain Hawks (7-7 overall, 1-2 Patriot League).

Loyola scored 50 second-half points, shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Lehigh also turned the ball over nine times after halftime and 18 in the game, with several coming in the final 2 1/2 minutes.

Those shortcomings gave Walker the opportunity to beat Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks defended him well and forced him into a tough shot. He still connected for the last three of his 16 second-half points.

Walker finished with 23 points, four assists and two steals.

"I feel like our players ended up making the adjustment and improvised in a way that was effective for us," Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. "The look that Walker had, he had to step around. He had to carve out some space.

"Walker has a little bit of a natural fade," he added. "He was able to get a small angle, and the guy made a great play. Unfortunately, he got to that situation."

Lehigh played well for extended stretches. The Mountain Hawks shot 57.1 percent from the field and put four players in double figures. Their two point guards, Kahron Ross and Jordan Cohen, combined for 25 points and 16 assists with just two turnovers.

Austin Price (23 points, three steals) and Tim Kempton (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) also produced impressive stat lines. None of the Mountain Hawks cared much for their numbers after allowing their lead to evaporate.

"We just took our foot off the gas," Ross said. "The first half, we held them to 34 points. We were really keying in on their key players. Second half, we let them shoot 60 percent and they end up scoring 50.

"I think it was more mental," he added. "The game plan was the same — try to crowd their two main players. They got a few 3s, and then everything just started unraveling from there."

Jared Jones joined Walker in enjoying a big night for the Greyhounds. He scored a team-high 24 points, snagged six boards, blocked two shots and had three steals.

Lehigh, meanwhile, will try to put its bad ending behind it in a hurry. The Mountain Hawks play their third Patriot League game in seven days Sunday when they host American.

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"You kind of create your own opportunities," Reed said. "Defensively, I thought we were just a little too passive. Some of the aggressiveness and assertiveness we had in the first half tapered back, which allowed Loyola to be a little more comfortable. As they were more comfortable, they ended up finding their opportunities.

"It's a really, really challenging loss," he added. "It's beyond disappointing. It really hurts."

Twitter @mcall_smiller

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