January 16, 2021
Patriot League notebook: Boston University makes its move; all in the family for Army, Holy Cross
Lehigh and Bucknell roll on, face showdown this weekend
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How sweep it is. The Patriot League completed week two of its revised season schedule which requires competing against the same opponent twice each weekend due to coronavirus concerns. How’s it going? Seven of the first eight two-game match-ups this year have produced sweeps. Those early season results have Boston University in control in the North division and an unexpected race in the Central as Bucknell and Lehigh head into this week tied, undefeated, and with a head-to-head series on tap. What happened and what does it mean for this week? Let’s break it down:
Boston University seizes first place in the North; how good are the Terriers?
Head Coach Marisa Moseley’s squad is already looking like a championship contender. They are 4-0 for the first time since 1994-95 and have notched three road wins. Two victories over division foe Colgate gave the Terriers a firm hold of first place with a two-game lead over Holy Cross in the North division. Katie Nelson led BU with 20 points and eight assists in the first of two back-to-back road contests, a 79-52 win. Eight different players scored to cap the weekend sweep 62-58, on an efficient 48.9% (22-for-45) shooting effort.
How good are the Terriers?
They are a legitimate threat to bring home the program’s first Patriot League title. They are doing it with great guard play, led by ironwoman Nelson. The senior point guard is playing the best basketball of her career. In the weekend opener, Nelson shot 7-for-8 from the field and had eight assists with zero turnovers. Nelson’s three-pointer from the wing in the third quarter gave her 1,000 career points. She logged 40 minutes the next day and committed just one turnover.
Nelson is shooting a stat-busting 71.9% from the floor (23-for-32) in helping BU to a league-leading 50.9% field goal percentage. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is 22-to-4 (topping the league at 5.5) and she paces her team from distance with an 8-for-14 (57.1%) effort. No one in the league is playing as well as Nelson through the first two weeks of the season.
Sunday’s performance showed why BU is capable of making a deep run. Game two was a struggle against the plucky Raiders. No starter reached double-figures in scoring on the day and early foul trouble limited Maren Durant and Sydney Johnson. But the Terriers showed their depth and mental resiliency against Colgate. The bench combined to shoot 10-for-17 from the floor logged 67 minutes and scored 29 points in the win.
Junior forward Riley Childs led the charge with 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists. But it was classmate Chiara Tibbitt who proved to be an unexpected spark. The 6’1 post was an efficient scorer in the paint and finished with 10 points in a 4-for-6 shooting.
BU is rolling despite a slow start for last year’s sharp-shooting Rookie of the Year, Maggie Pina (7-for-23 from three-point range), and a gradual adjustment for guard Emily Esposito (4.8 ppg, on 10-for-29 shooting). The Villanova transfer is still trying to find her way on both ends of the floor.
Next up for the Terriers is a weekend set with Army (4-5) in another double road test.
Dad loses to daughter twice as Holy Cross beats Army
Holy Cross swept their weekend series with Army, earning head coach Maureen Magarity her first win on the bench for the Crusaders. It was also her first time coaching against her dad, Knight’s head coach Dave Magarity. The Crusaders blew out the Knights 80-46 on the road in the opener and finished the sweep with a 61-42 home win. Is the new mentor’s up-tempo style succeeding in Worcester?
The style is working when the defense puts in the effort. An aggressive man-to-man scheme helped fuel Holy Cross to a quicker pace of play and they capitalized on 25 Army turnovers to cruise to the opening win. Freshman Bronagh Power-Cassidy scored 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting while preseason All-League point guard Avery LaBarbera added 23 points and three assists.
Forwards Madison Demski and Oluchi Ezemma each had breakout games for the undersized Crusaders. In the opener, Ezemma had two key drives in the paint for scores that helped push her team to an insurmountable 63-37 lead after three quarters. She finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. Demski showed her range from deep, hitting multiple three-pointers in the second quarter of game two for a lead Holy Cross would not relinquish. She finished with eight points after scoring 10 in the previous game.
Looking ahead, Army will have to address a lack of ball control. They are committing 17.8 turnovers per game, and have the most giveaways in league play. They finished last season with the league-high of 18.5 turnovers per outing.
This weekend, Army started two freshmen. They are a young team and dealing with absences too, but they looked unprepared this week. They were unable to build on the momentum from an impressive comeback win over Colgate last weekend and looked like a completely different team.
The Knights finished the first quarter on Sunday with more turnovers (11) than points (9). In the two-game set, they committed 47 giveaways. Holy Cross converted those miscues into easy points, outscoring Army 46 to 7 in points off turnovers.
Army played without junior forward Kate Murray who is out due to COVID-19 protocols regarding contact tracing. Murray is the leading scorer (15.4 PPG) and rebounder (10.2 RPG) for the Knights.
The emotion-filled first game featured the first-ever Division-1 head-to-head match-up between father and daughter head coaches. The pair worked collaboratively from 2006-10 at Army when Maureen served as a coach on her dad’s staff.
They’ve faced off previously, but never when it counted. Although she was the head coach at the University of New Hampshire for 10 seasons (2010-20), the two never scheduled a non-conference contest. But their teams did scrimmage each season.
Army and Holy Cross will meet again on Feb. 6th and 7th. Until then, it would seem that daughter knows best.
Bucknell dominates Lafayette in a sweep; can anyone keep up with the Bison?
Bucknell is off to a 2-0 start in the Central Division after a weekend sweep of Lafayette. The preseason favorite for the title, the Bison dominated the Leopards, leading in game one for all but 38 seconds and cruising to an 80-51 win.
In a season disrupted by the pandemic, Bucknell hasn’t missed a beat. They play with more discipline than any team in the league and their man-to-man defense is hitting its rotations and looks to be in mid-season form just four games into the schedule. Can anyone keep up with the Bison?
The first real test was supposed to come from Lafayette, a clear pick for third in the preseason poll and led by talented senior forward, Natalie Kucowski. The Bison simply looked a step ahead on both ends.
The team shot 11-for-19 from behind the arc. The Leopards’ zone defense couldn’t slow the ball movement or prevent quality looks as the Bison blitzed to a 24-11 first-quarter edge. They shot 9-for-18 from the floor and 4-for-6 from the three-point range in the frame. It was a breakout performance from behind the arc, but the plan for Bucknell is always to play through the post. Head coach Trevor Woodruff in the post-game release:
We generally don’t emphasize it. We emphasize trying to play in the paint and then take threes that come from that.
The attack in the paint produced some three-point daggers courtesy of senior Abby Kapp. The Bison’s best perimeter shooter scored a career-high 24 points on the strength of seven three-pointers. Woodruff on Kapp getting untracked:
It felt good because Abby struggled in the opening weekend. Everybody in the conference knows she’s an elite shooter, and so to see her break out the way she did today, I’m just happy for her.
Game two was no different. Bucknell led for all but 1:55 of the contest and won, 79-45. While Kapp cooled off and was limited to five points on 2-of-7 shooting, the rest of the team combined to go 27-for-45 (60.0%). Guard Taylor O’Brien led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Next up for Bucknell is a home-and-home with divisional challengers Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks are also 2-0 in the Central and 4-0 overall. Lafayette’s games this weekend versus Loyola (MD) are postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Leopards’ Tier-1 group.
Lehigh sweeps American in the opening weekend for the Eagles; Mountain Hawks are undefeated, so what’s next?
Lehigh rode a Patriot League record-tying three-point performance in an 89-71 victory over American to give the hosts a sweep of the two-game set. The 16-for-36 effort (44.4%) from distance also set a program record and was too much for an American offense lacking a consistent perimeter threat. Seven different players hit a three for Lehigh who moved to 4-0 on the season.
Who are these Mountain Hawks? If the names or faces don’t seem familiar, you’re not alone. Freshman Mackenzie Kramer posted 21 points and made four three-pointers in her team’s 79-71 win to open the weekend. In game two, sophomore Frannie Hottinger scored 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting to lead the offense. She played just 7.7 minutes and averaged 2.1 points per game a season ago.
Head coach Sue Troyan and her staff have their squad playing unselfish basketball. The team’s ball movement is already better than last season and the emergence of Hottinger as a consistent scorer (14.5 ppg) makes Lehigh a surprise early contender. Point guard Clair Steele has really stepped up too. The junior is scoring 9.3 points a game and adding 5.0 assists–and a whole lot of toughness.
Where do they need to grow to be better? Defense. Their blend of a full-court 2-2-1 into a 2-3 zone, mixed with man-to-man, has kept teams off balance in the early going. But Lehigh will need to improve its physicality and communication to make it work against the better teams in the league.
There are plenty of positives for Troyan’s group, including the new faces making big contributions. A season tabbed as a re-building year may turn out to be a period in which Lehigh just re-loaded. At the very least, opponents and fans better get used to seeing the names Hottinger and Kramer light up the scoreboard.
Next up for the Mountain Hawks is a two-game set with Bucknell.
(Division record, League overall record)
Boston University (4-0, 4-0)
Holy Cross (2-2, 2-2)
Army (1-3, 1-3)
Colgate (1-3, 1-3)
Bucknell (2-0, 4-0)
Lehigh (2-0, 4-0)
Lafayette (0-4, 0-4)
American (0-0, 0-2)
Navy (0-0, 0-0)
Loyola (MD) (0-0, 0-2)
What’s the can’t-miss match-up of the week? Bucknell at Lehigh
It’s a match-up of contrasting styles as the two 4-0 teams face off for a first place in the Central division. Lehigh leads the league in scoring at 80.5 points per game while Bucknell sits right behind at 72.5 ppg. The outcome will likely be decided at the defensive end. The Bison are allowing 46.0 points an outing while Lehigh is surrendering 70.2 ppg.
Can the young guns at Lehigh find the range against a stout Bison defense? The Mountain Hawks will try to push the pace against Bucknell and win the three-point game. The danger? Coach Trevor Woodruff’s squad is quicker this season and capable of transitioning on offense too—they’re also tops in the league at three-point shooting (45.5% on 25-for-55).
Will Lehigh convert enough threes to compete? Expect their shooters to be forced to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. The Bison lead the league in three-point field goal defense, allowing just 19.3% (11-for-57). The winner of the points in the paint battle has the edge in this one.
The last meeting: February 22, 2020. Bucknell closed each quarter with a score and then broke open the game early in the fourth to lead by 18 points before posting a 67-56 home win in Lewisburg. Abby Kapp had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Bison. Lehigh placed just one scorer in double-digits.
Tune in to Patriot League action this week:
(Note: The Patriot League is no longer streaming games for free on the Stadium platform. All games are now streamed through ESPN+ for a subscription fee. Click here for the video link to all league competition.)
*Lafayette at Loyola (MD) @1:00p.m.
Bucknell at Lehigh @2:00p.m.
Boston University at Army @3:00p.m.
Colgate at Holy Cross @3:00p.m.
Navy at American @3:00p.m.
Colgate at Holy Cross @2:00p.m.
American at Navy @3:00p.m.
Boston University at Army @3:00p.m.
*Loyola at Lafayette @4:00p.m.
Lehigh at Bucknell @4:00p.m.
*Postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Lafayette women’s basketball program’s Tier 1 group.
Patriot League Player of the Week:
Jade Edwards, American, Junior Guard
Edwards was unstoppable with a double-double of 31 points and 13 rebounds in an 89-71 loss against Lehigh on Monday.
Edwards grabbed five steals in each game of the two-game set versus Lehigh.
The 5’10 guard posted a career-high mark with her 13-rebound effort.
Patriot League Rookie of the Week:
Mackenzie Kramer, Lehigh, Freshman Guard
Kramer averaged 16.0 points per game and was 7-for-15 (46.7%) from three-point range in a two-game sweep of American.
Kramer led Lehigh with 21 points in a 79-70 win over American with four three-pointers.
She’s a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line this season including a 5-for-5 effort versus American.
League news and notes:
Bucknell owns top marks on the boards with a rebounding margin of +6.5. Tessa Brugler leads her team with an 8.0 RPG.
Naomi Ganpo leads the league in field goal percentage with a 72.7% mark from the floor, converting 16-for-22. The Lafayette forward came off the bench to score 16 points and grab 7 rebounds against Bucknell.
Clair Steele has a team-high 20 assists for Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks have six players with seven or more helpers, dishing out a league-leading 19.8 per game.
BU’s Katie Nelson reached the 1,000-point career milestone in her squad’s 79-51 win over Colgate. The senior point guard accomplished the feat while also matching a career-high in assists with eight.
Lafayette has lost 14 consecutive games to Bucknell.
Since getting outrebounded by Boston University 40 to 20 in the season opener, Holy Cross has won its rebounding margin 116 to 94. Forward Oluchi Ezemma (7.3) and guard Avery LaBarbera (5.5) lead the Crusaders on the boards.
The Terriers lead the league in steals with 9.8 per game. Sophomores Maggie Pina and Sydney Johnson top the team with 2.3 a game.
Sunday’s 79-45 win over Lafayette was head coach Trevor Woodruff’s 300th NCAA win.
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.