I’ve been itching to get back to Stabler Arena for a while to fix some blurry pictures, compile a Stadium Journey review and check out a Mountain Hawk team that I really liked even without CJ McCollum in the lineup. Wednesday presented that opportunity as I zipped on over to Bethlehem after work to arrive a minute into their Patriot League game against Navy. Stabler is much more of an arena than gym, when you compare it to the rest of the facilities in the Patriot. It’s not a bad place; conveniently accessible and spacious inside. The set-up is a little boxy and it’s annoying how the ends and sides don’t connect. But it’s a more comfortable facility to watch a game than their rivals down the road in Lafayette. My last time there in 2008, I was surprised at how ridiculously empty it was. Their conference tournament quarterfinal game against Army only had maybe 500-800 fans, hardly any of them students. This time, it was good to see a better crowd on hand (1200) with more students. They were a little more engaging too. A lot of this could be bandwagoners from last year’s historical team that beat Duke, so it will be interesting to see if fans keep their interest in a couple years.
For those basketball junkies, you’ve known about CJ McCollum much longer than just last year’s performance against Duke. He averaged some sick numbers his freshman year in 2009 (19.1 pts/gm, 5.1 reb/gm and 5.0 ast/gm). As their core got better, Lehigh really had the look of a great team. His cold-blooded shot to beat Bucknell last year and subsequent stare down of their taunting student section was awesome. Off the court, he’s a really great (and smart) kid and it was terrible to see him break his foot in his December. This team is still really good with Gabe Knutson, Holden Greiner and Mackey McKnight. I was surprised to see them struggle in losing their last three, but man did they put it together against Navy. They absolutely blew them out with a 72-43 that sounds as bad as it was. This also might be the fastest game I’ve ever been to, as it was over at 8:37 PM (a 1 hr and 35 min game). Looking forward to see if they get Bucknell again in the Patriot Final in a few weeks, or if Lafayette plays spoilers.