January 5, 2022 

Patriot League notebook: Army upsets Bucknell; Lehigh setting the pace

What does Bucknell’s loss to Army mean moving forward?

League play kicked off this week with a surprising upset at West Point and a perennial favorite making an early statement. The nation’s omicron variant surge has put the spread of COVID-19 front and center again and there were multiple postponements as a result. Let’s break it all down and take a look at what it means moving forward. This week around the Patriot League:

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Five takeaways from Army’s upset win over Bucknell

Army defeated Bucknell for the first time since 2016 with a shocking 69-60 victory at West Point. The Black Knights got double-double efforts from senior guard Alisa Fallon and junior forward Sabria Hunter in the win. Fallon hit an incredible baseline jumper to seal the deal.

The win snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Bison and ended Bucknell’s run of eight straight wins this season.

Let’s dive into the five biggest takeaways of the battle:

Bucknell is beatable. It’s not a sentence that just rolls off the tongue easily. If it seems like they never lose it’s because, well, they rarely do. The loss to Army is just the program’s third regular-season loss in the last three years. But their margin to win in key categories of the game is slimmer.

Let’s be clear, Bucknell (9-3) is an elite team in the league. They are one of the favorites to win the championship but they’re vulnerable in a way they haven’t been the last few seasons–and it’s predominately about post play.

Last year’s forwards, Tessa Brugler and Autumn Ceppi weren’t just two of the best post passers in the league, they were two of the best passers, period. And they could hurt teams one-on-one in the high-or low-post, or face-up and find shooters and cutters with efficiency. On defense, their physicality could keep opposing forwards off their spot.

Now that Brugler and Ceppi have graduated, that recipe for success with the team’s forwards in a smaller line-up is still in tinker-mode for head coach Trevor Woodruff. Against Army, the forward rotation lacked production and the Bison allowed the Black Knights’ front line of Sabria Hunter (12 points, 14 rebounds) and Kate Murray (19 points) to give them a chance to pull the upset and set the stage for Fallon’s heroics.

A big, buy-in win. When a new coach is re-building a program and establishing a new culture or philosophy, results matter. While wins and losses come in all shapes and sizes, this one is big.

Expect the buy-in and belief for this Army team to expand from here. This is a signature win for head coach Missy Traversi and her staff and an early one that may grow in importance down the stretch of the season as teams position themselves for playoffs and home court.

It’s cold outside (the arc). Bucknell shot just 3-for-15 from the three-point distance and made just one after the first quarter. It was their worst shooting performance from deep since their season-opening loss to Ohio State, 71-48. The Bison were 2-for-11 in that game.

Bucknell is consistently one of the best shooting teams in the league and they are currently third with an overall 42.4% conversion rate and tops from three-point range at 36.4% on 64-for-176 shooting.

The Black Knights took full advantage of Bucknell’s cold streak by sinking 9-for-20 from behind the arc. It was Army’s second-best shooting performance of the year and it came following a 5-for-32 effort in a 68-50 loss to Yale six days earlier.

Free throws matter. In the crucial fourth quarter, Army converted 8-for-10 from the line, including a 5-for-6 performance from Fallon. Bucknell shot 1-for-3 from the line in the final frame and just 5-for-9 for the game.

Fallon leads the league in free throwing shooting at 91.3%, sinking 21-for-23 on the season. Last year, she shot 76.6% on a 59-for-77 effort.

Alisa Fallon is the leader. Fallon clearly sets the tone for her team both in work ethic and leadership and has embraced Coach Traversi’s ‘find a way’ approach.

Leading by three with just over a minute to play, Army had the ball right where they wanted it, in Fallon’s hands for the most crucial play of the game.

A tough drive from the right wing was cut off and forced baseline by the Bison defense but Fallon shot a fall away jumper that took her out of bounds. The shot hit the rim and then found its way home.

Fallon scored seven of the Army’s last eight points. She scored 24 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and played all 40 minutes.

Lehigh is setting the pace

Junior Frannie Hottinger can score inside and out for a Lehigh offense that leads the league in scoring and three-pointers made.
Photo credit: Hannahally Photography

Try and keep up.

That’s what Lehigh is saying to opponents with its fast-paced and attacking offense that uses the three-point line to spread teams out for attacking drives and post-play or beat them from deep—or both. They are averaging a league-best 76.5 points per game.

Through 12 games, the defending champion Mountain Hawks have attempted 357 threes. That’s 114 more long-distance shots than Army, the team with the second-most attempts in the league. They’re fourth in the league at 34.5% from deep but have converted 123-of-357—that’s 49 more makes than Army or Boston University, who each run a distant second from long-range.

Sophomore guard Mackenzie Kramer leads the Patriot League in the most made threes with a 39-for-93 mark, shooting at a 41.9% clip. Senior Megan Walker is second in the league with 28 triples.

What makes Lehigh’s emphasis on three-point shooting different than most teams in the league? The Mountain Hawks can make you pay inside, too. Two of the most efficient interior scorers in the league reside in Bethlehem.

Senior Emma Grothaus and junior Frannie Hottinger dominate the paint and mid-range play for head coach Sue Troyan’s squad. They are the secret sauce in Lehigh’s perimeter attack because they can keep the defenses honest.

Grothaus (13.2 ppg and 8.8 rpg) is at her crafty best in the lane. And Hottinger’s fearlessness (15.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg) and ability to find her shot makes her a tough one-on-one cover in the paint. Opponents who pay too much attention to the three-point line are doomed to face an interior attack that is among the best in the league. Lock down on inside play too much? Then those threes are flying.

Games postponed due to COVID-19

COVID-19 postponed five out of the 10 games last week:

Boston University at Bucknell (virus protocols with Boston University)

American at Lehigh (virus protocols with Lehigh)

Army at Loyola (MD) (virus protocols with Loyola)

American at Lafayette (virus protocols with Lafayette)

Loyola (MD) at Holy Cross (virus protocols with Loyola)

Don’t I know you from somewhere?

It’s been a walk down memory lane for American University head coach Megan Gebbia in non-conference play this season. The schedule has included games against both Marist and UMBC—two of her previous assistant coaching stops—and Towson University, her alma mater.

The Eagles notched their first win of the season with a 59-52 win over Marist on the road in November. Gebbia spent 10 seasons coaching in Poughkeepsie and mentored current American assistant coaches Nikki Flores and Emily Stallings during their playing careers at Marist.

The Eagles earned a 55-47 win over UMBC but fell victim to Towson’s fast pace and scoring balance in a 79-61 loss.

American had its road match-ups to begin league play postponed last week. Its opener against Lehigh was canceled due to COVID protocols with the Mountain Hawks and Sunday’s game versus Lafayette suffered the same fate due to health and safety precautions in the Leopards’ program. Currently, there are plans to re-schedule both games.

The Eagles open league play at home on Wednesday against Colgate.

Current standings:

(League record, overall record)

  1. Lehigh (1-0, 9-3)
  2. Holy Cross (1-0, 7-5)
  3. Army (1-0, 6-4)
  4. Lafayette (1-0, 5-6)
  5. Boston University (1-0, 5-7)
  6. American (0-0, 7-3)
  7. Loyola (MD) (0-0, 3-7)
  8. Bucknell (0-1, 9-3)
  9. Navy (0-2, 3-9)
  10. Colgate (0-2, 2-11)

What’s the can’t-miss match-up of the week?

Senior Jade Edwards will lead American in a key early-season clash with Boston University on Saturday. The Terriers have ended the Eagles’ season in the playoffs in each of the last two years.
Photo credit: American University Athletic Communications

Boston University at American

Saturday, January 8th @1:00p.m.

If you’re looking for an early-season game with playoff intensity, you’ll find it here. The Eagles and Terriers are a growing rivalry and two of the top teams in the league. The impact of COVID scheduling over the last season means the last two times these squads have faced each other happened in the playoffs in 2020 and 2021—both wins for Boston University.

These are two of the best shooting teams in the league and each was picked for a top-four finish in the conference’s preseason poll. It features a match-up of two of the best players in American’s Jade Edwards and BU’s Sydney Johnson. Edwards is the Preseason Player of the Year and leads the Eagles in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg). Johnson is BU’s leading scorer with 13.7 ppg.

The opposing coaches are worth a close look in this battle as the X’s and O’s between the lines–both in pre-game planning and in-game adjustments–will be key to the outcome. First-time head coach Melissa Graves inherited a talented group in Boston and she’ll face her first big test in the Patriot against American’s head coach, Megan Gebbia, one of the best mentors in the league.

Keep an eye on how Gebbia plans to guard the post play of both 6’4 Caitlin Weimar and 6’3 Maren Durant. American will be challenged by the Terriers’ size on both ends of the floor. Graves’ approach to guarding the Eagles’ motion offense is worth noting as well. American has struggled against the zone defense. Will the Terriers zone it up for four quarters?

The last meeting: March 11, 2021. The Terriers won, 72-51 in the league tournament semi-final. BU broke open a tight game by shooting 11-for-16 in the second quarter, turning a one-point deficit into a 19-point halftime lead. The offensive attack was led by Sydney Johnson (23 points) who hit five three-pointers in the first half. American’s Jade Edwards was limited to six points on just 2-for-10 shooting.

Tune in to Patriot League action this week:

(Note: All games are streamed through ESPN+ for a subscription fee. Click here for the video link to all league competition.)

January 5th

Colgate at American @6:00p.m.

Army at Lehigh @6:00p.m.

Navy at Bucknell @6:00p.m.

Boston University at Loyola (MD) @7:00p.m.

Holy Cross at Lafayette (postponed due to COVID protocols in the Lafayette program)

January 8th

Lehigh at Holy Cross @12:00p.m.

Lafayette at Navy @1:00p.m.

Boston University at American @1:00p.m.

Colgate at Army @1:00p.m.

Loyola (MD) at Bucknell @2:00p.m.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Alisa Fallon, Army, Senior Guard

  • Played all 40 minutes against in the Black Knights’ upset win over Bucknell. She leads the team with 34.4 minutes played per game.
  • Fallon posted back-to-back 20-point games and had season-highs in field goal attempts (18), makes (8), and rebounds (11) in Army’s conference opener.
  • Shot 48.0% from the floor while averaging 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week:

Alex Giannaros, Boston University, Freshman Guard

  • She reached double figures in scoring for the first time in her career, leading the Terriers with 18 points in an 82-58 win over Navy in the conference opener for Boston.
  • Giannaros has started the last four games for the Terriers and averaged 24.2 minutes per game in that span.
  • In the win over Navy, Giannaros converted four of five three-point attempts and shot 7-for-10 from the floor overall. She’s shooting 52.8% (19-for-36) from the field this season.

League news and notes:

  • Freshman forward Lex Therien is averaging nearly a double-double for Loyola (MD) with 10.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
  • Holy Cross senior Avery LaBarbera was two assists short of posting a triple double for the Crusaders in their 63-53 win over Navy in the league opener. The 5’6 point guard scored 11 points, pulled down 11 boards, and had eight assists.
  • Navy’s Jennifer Coleman secured her eighth double-double of the season in the Mids’ loss to Boston University. The senior guard is averaging 23.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. She leads the league in minutes played per game at 38.3.
  • Sophomore forward Caitlin Weimar notched her first double-double of the season in Boston University’s conference opening win over Navy. The Marist transfer scored 14 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
  • Junior guard Jessica Booth is putting up career-high numbers for the 5-6 Lafayette Leopards. Booth leads her team in points (12.1), assists (4.1), steals (1.5) while logging 31.3 minutes per game. Hoops is a family affair for the Booths. Jessica’s older brother, Phil, won two national championships while playing for Villanova.
  • Holy Cross is doing it with defense. The Crusaders are holding teams to 55.9 points per game and are tops in the league with field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to 36.2% from the field.
  • Lafayette’s Makaila Wilson has stepped into a regular starting role this season and is scoring 7.5 points per game and grabbing 8.6 rebounds a contest. She was 6-for-7 from the floor in the Leopards’ conference-opening win over Colgate.
  • Loyola (MD) and American each have three players in the league’s top ten for minutes played per game this season.

Written by Todd Goclowski

Todd Goclowski currently covers the Patriot League for The Next. Goclowski brings 25 years of coaching experience to his role as an analyst and writer, including 19 years of coaching women's basketball in the NCAA at the D1 and D3 levels.

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