Lehigh's Gabe Knutson (42) drives on Xavier's Kenny Frease (32)...

Lehigh's Gabe Knutson (42) drives on Xavier's Kenny Frease (32) during the first half of a third-round NCAA tournament college basketball game in Greensboro, N.C. (March 18, 2012) Credit: AP

At some point down the road, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks will truly appreciate what they accomplished in the NCAA tournament.

After all, it's rare when a No. 15 seed can knock off a No. 2 seed.

And it's even more extraordinary when that team is Duke.

But while that win will stand as one of the greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history, the Mountain Hawks left the Greensboro Coliseum with an empty feeling Sunday night. They felt like they should have moved on after becoming the first No. 15 seed to carry a lead into halftime of their second game.

Unfortunately it all fell apart from there.

Lehigh made only five of its 34 shots from the field in the second half and lost to 10th-seeded Xavier 70-58.

"There's been a lot of emotional highs and lows, that's a part of life," said guard C.J. McCollum. "We're not satisfied. We're not going to hold our heads down because we fought as hard as we could. We left everything we had on the court, but at the same time we're a little disappointed with the outcome."

Kenny Frease scored a career-high 25 points to go with 12 rebounds for Xavier, and the Musketeers advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years.

Xavier was ranked as high as eighth in the country earlier this season, but a midseason bench-clearing brawl that resulted in player suspensions seemed to turn the season on a sour note. They lost their edge and had to battle to make the tournament.

But they seem to have rekindled their momentum.

"We ultimately knew we had talent, but for whatever reason things just weren't clicking," Frease said. "We're coming together at the right time. It feels real good to get back to the Sweet 16."

Lehigh was looking to become the first 15 seed to make it to the tournament's second weekend.

But the 7-foot Frease stood in the way.

He dominated in the paint, hitting 11 of 13 shots, and Tu Holloway was his normal productive self with 21 points as 10th-seeded Xavier (22-12) moved on to play No. 3 seed Baylor on Friday in the South Regional at Atlanta.

"Lehigh is a very good team, but they're also small," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "I'm sure they don't face the type of size that Kenny presents. We just wanted to be able to get the ball to Kenny, and fortunately he was able to finish."

Frease was quick to turn the praise to his teammates after what Mack called his best game as a Musketeer.

"My guards put me in great position," Frease said. "I wouldn't have been able to score if it wasn't for those guys putting me in good positions and finding me at the right time. It made my job pretty easy. All I had to do was turn and finish."

Lehigh center Gabe Knutson, who gave up three inches and 55 pounds to Frease, said he tried the best he could to defend Xavier's burly big man.

"I didn't do as good of a job as I could have defending him, but he's a tremendous player and he had a tremendous night," Knutson said.

Lehigh's shooting, on the other hand, wasn't so tremendous — particularly in the second half with two separate stretches in which the team didn't make a basket for more than 6 minutes.

The Musketeers held McCollum, the nation's fifth-leading scorer and Patriot League MVP, to 14 points on 5-of-22 shooting and overcame a 15-point first-half deficit. He came in averaging 21.9 points per game and scored 30 in the win over Duke.

"I just wasn't making shots," McCollum said. "I just missed some shots tonight, and offense is going to come and go. We still have to get stops on defense, and we didn't do that tonight."

Mackey McKnight had 20 points for Lehigh (27-7), which tied a Patriot League record for wins in a season.

The Musketeers won despite playing most of the game without their third-leading scorer, Dezmine Wells. He injured his right toe in the first half and did not return.

Mack said he will be reevaluated this week but is hopeful he can play against Baylor.

The Mountain Hawks started strong, opening a 35-20 lead behind 53 percent shooting and 14 first-half points from McKnight. But after McCollum picked up his second foul Xavier clawed back to cut the lead to 37-33 at halftime behind a 3-point buzzer-beater by Holloway.

The Mountain Hawks went more than 7 minutes without a field goal to start the second half — missing their first 10 shots from the field — and the Musketeers took advantage by going on a 14-3 spurt to take a 47-40 lead.

The Mountain Hawks fought back again, however, tying the game at 52. That's when Xavier took over for good, closing with an 18-6 run.


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