March 1, 2022 

Patriot League Notebook: Head-to-head showdown for first in the finale; player of the year is a hot debate

Who will win the vote for Player of the Year? Navy’s Jennifer Coleman and Holy Cross guard Avery LaBarbera lead the way

It’s the final week of the regular season and the best match-up is a winner-take-all battle for first place in Worcester. The two teams at the top will meet to decide the regular-season champion. What’s in store for the showdown between Holy Cross and Boston University? We’ll break down the details in our can’t-miss game of the week. It is award season and the ballots are being cast.

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The hottest debate behind league doors? It’s who deserves the top honor as Player of the Year. Navy senior guard Jennifer Coleman and Avery LaBarbera of Holy Cross have risen to the top of a strong group of contenders. Can Coleman’s do-it-all role for the Mids eclipse the season LaBarbera has put together in pushing the Crusaders to the top of the conference? We’ll get into the numbers and break it down. Let’s dive into all the details in this week’s Patriot League notebook:

The envelope please………”And the player of the year is…

It’s game of inches, even in the statistics.

If you lead your team in scoring, log heavy minutes at 37+ per game, dish out 4.6 assists a contest and put up 12 double-doubles on the season, you probably should be named as the player of the year. Easy choice; your top player is Jennifer Coleman of Navy.

Not so fast. Those are Avery LaBarbera’s numbers too.

It doesn’t get easier from here, so let’s take a step back. The big picture includes fantastic seasons by Taylor O’Brien of Bucknell, Sydney Johnson of Boston University, and Mackenzie Kramer of Lehigh—all deserving of the All-Patriot accolades they are sure to receive. But their seasons fall just short of the dynamic performances of both Coleman and LaBarbera, so let’s zero in on how those two stack up.

Should the vote favor the more elite scorer in Coleman who boasts more points per game and a better shooting percentage? Or is LaBarbera the choice due to her superior ball control and assist-to-turnover ratio?

Coleman has more steals, too. But LaBarbera shoots it significantly better from the free-throw line. And what about all those amazing double-doubles for the 5’5 LaBarbera; she has 12 on the season. The 5’9 Coleman also has 12 double-doubles.

How about a big performance in a signature win? LaBarbera posted 30 points and 17 rebounds in a 64-53 win over Lehigh. Coleman put up 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in a 57-55 victory at Bucknell. Neither player is a one-hit-wonder in the big game department. Coleman also had a 22-point, 20-rebound effort against Lafayette and LaBarbera had a 30-point, 11-rebound game on the road in an overtime win at Bucknell.

Should the role each plays for their respective team be a part of the consideration? Both players are ball-dominant, the top target in opponents’ scouts and focus of opposing defenses. However, Coleman’s burden seems a much heavier carry.

She has played the full 40 minutes in conference play seven times—is that an important measure for player of the year? LaBarbera has reached the mark twice, once in an overtime game against the Bison in which she played 44 minutes.

Will each team’s season come into play? The two programs do not share the same depth of talent and it may not be a fair piece to the puzzle—but a surprising season at the top of the conference for Holy Cross will be difficult for voters to ignore.

Navy has struggled to an 8-19 overall record, just 5-12 in conference play. A win in the season finale for Holy Cross and LaBarbera will have led her team to a first-place finish. Currently, at 19-9, she’s led the Crusaders to at least a share of the regular season title.

It will be a close vote and each is deserving of the honor. But, beyond the numbers, Coleman and LaBarbera have given fans of the league a senior season to remember.

Current Standings:

(League record, overall record)

  1. Holy Cross (13-4, 19-9)
  2. Boston University (12-5, 16-12)
  3. American (12-5, 19-8)
  4. Bucknell (11-6, 20-8)
  5. Lehigh (10-7, 18-10)
  6. Army (9-8, 15-12)
  7. Lafayette (7-10, 11-16)
  8. Navy (5-12, 8-19)
  9. Colgate (4-13, 6-22)
  10. Loyola (MD) (2-15, 5-22)

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

Boston University at Holy Cross

Wednesday, March 2nd @6:00p.m.

It’s winner-take-all game. The victor earns the top seed and a first-place regular-season finish. The Crusaders bring a three-game winning streak following their loss to the Terriers in Boston. In their last three, the Terriers suffered back-to-back losses to Colgate and Lafayette before rebounding for a big win over Bucknell in previous last outing.

A win would give Holy Cross its first 20-win season since 2013-14 and its 22nd overall. A Boston University win and the Terriers will clinch the top seed for the second year in a row. So how will it play out?

Holy Cross has one of the best defenses in the league, while the Terriers bring the top offense to the contest. BU scores a league-leading 66.2 points per game and shoots 43.1% from the floor.

It’ll be a battle of the mid-range and post-player combinations. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but don’t let that fool you. The Xs and Os for the Crusaders’ defense will be the key and best part of this match-up. On BU’s side, how they use the posts—and in what combination—will determine its chance to win.

The Crusaders allowed BU to shoot 10-for-14 in the mid-range for 71.4% (see chart) in the team’s loss. While they contested well enough in the paint and limited the three early, it was the shooting in the high post that really sunk Holy Cross. Forward Chiara Tibbitt was the x-factor for the Terriers and clearly caught the Crusader defense by surprise.

Graphic credit: CBB Analytics

Holy Cross will have to adjust to defend the mid-range if BU makes them adjust. The last time they met, Tibbitt started in place of an injured Caitlin Weimar and her outside shooting ability capitalized on the open space given by the Crusaders. Her presence allowed the Terriers to own the middle of the floor and win the battle in the paint.

Since Weimar’s return, BU is starting her and teaming her with Durant for most of the game. While the two forwards are excellent on the interior, each is a reluctant shooter beyond 10-feet and not a significant perimeter threat. Defenses sag off each forward when they’re on the perimeter or in the high post and challenge them to shoot it. It allows the defense to crowd the low-post and jam up driving lanes for guards like Sydney Johnson.

BU will not get the same mid-range scoring if they approach the game with non-shooters at both forward spots for the bulk of the contest—and that is a key to watch for in this showdown. The Terriers welcomed back forward Riley Childs from injury last week and her presence can be a vital asset due to her ability to hit perimeter shots. If BU splits up their low-post specialists (Durant and Weimar) in combination with one of their shooting forwards (Tibbitt or Childs) they’ll be able to stress the Crusader defense more effectively.

Graphic credit: CBB Analytics

For the Crusaders to win, they have to control the pace and keep the game in their rhythm. It’s tempting to try and neutralize BU’s size by playing with more pace, but keeping the game slow and finding an inside-outside balance are the keys for Holy Cross. If they can make the Terriers play half-court defense and keep them out of their transition game, they’ll be celebrating in Worcester on Wednesday night.

The last meeting: Feb. 16, 2022. The Terriers won 74-56 in Boston. The Terriers’ 25-point second quarter offensive explosion flipped a 10-point deficit into a lead they would not relinquish. After a sluggish opening frame, Boston shot 56.2% over the last three quarters to cruise to the win. Freshman Alex Giannaros scored 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including three three-pointers. Teammate Chiara Tibbitt had 16 points in her first start of the season. Avery LaBarbera led Holy Cross with 20 points but needed 20 shots to reach the mark.

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. All times are EST.)

March 2nd

Boston University at Holy Cross @6:00p.m.

Loyola (MD) at Army @6:00p.m.

Colgate at Bucknell @6:00p.m.

Lafayette at American @7:00p.m.

Lehigh at Navy @7:00p.m.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Makayla Andrews, Lafayette, Sophomore Guard

  • Posted a career-high 23 points and seven rebounds in 65-61 upset win over rival Lehigh.
  • Leads Lafayette with 116 made field goals on the season. Andrews is shooting 40.3% from the floor.
  • Led the Leopards wth 18 points and eight rebounds in a 58-52 upset win over Boston University.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week

Lex Therien, Loyola (MD), Freshman Forward

  • Grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds in a 56-42 win over Navy.
  • Averaging a league-leading 12.1 rebounds per game in conference play. She’s 18th in the nation in rebounds per game, averaging 11.1 across all games.
  • Leads Loyola (MD) in both scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (11.1 rpg).

League news and notes

  • Freshman forward Lex Therien of Loyola (MD) has claimed Rookie of the Week honors six times this season.
  • Lehigh had its worst shooting game of the season in a 65-61 loss to Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks shot 29.6% from the floor on a 21-for-71 effort, including 10-for-39 from three. In a 0-3 week, Lehigh shot just 17-for-81 from three-point range—a 20.9% mark.
  • Colgate guard Alexa Brodie scored 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting in a 52-48 road loss to Navy. The junior guard returned to action after missing two weeks with an injury.
  • Avery LaBarbera of Holy Cross has entered her name in the transfer portal as she aims to compete next season as a graduate student for a new school.
  • Bucknell is the only team to place three players in the top 10 for minutes played in conference play. Cecelia Collins, Taylor O’Brien and Marly Walls each play over 33 minutes per game.
  • American’s Jade Edwards game-winning basket at the buzzer earned the Eagles their first lead of the game, a 49-48 win over Loyola (MD).
  • Boston University hits the road to face Holy Cross in the regular season finale in which the winner clinches the top seed for the league tournament. The Terriers are 6-8 on the road this season and 6-9 when facing the Crusaders in Worcester.
  • Senior guard Taylor O’Brien scored her 1,000 career point in Bucknell’s 79-61 victory over Army. O’Brien scored 20 points on 9-for-17 from the floor for the Bison.

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.

2 Comments

  1. Jim Bisceglia on March 2, 2022 at 7:11 am

    Can’t miss match up involves HC, not Bucknell.

    • Todd Goclowski on March 2, 2022 at 9:02 pm

      Thank you, Jim. We updated for the correction.

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