January 17, 2023 

Patriot League Notebook: Holy Cross and BU keep rolling; Colgate is sneaky good

Can the Raiders make the leap into title contention?

The opening weeks of the Patriot League season have delivered on the expected chaos. Traditional favorites Bucknell and American are struggling and the middle of the pack is a collision of aspiring contenders. While Boston University and Holy Cross continue to hold down a share of the top spot, the team looking most like a potential challenger is Colgate.

Can the Raiders make a statement this week in their showdown with Holy Cross? The squad’s depth this season makes it a threat to break away from the middling mob of teams looking to find their way while Holy Cross just continues to win. We’ll break down the details in our can’t-miss game of the week. 

Patriot League favorite Boston University is riding a six-game winning streak behind a balanced offensive attack and size inside that few league teams can challenge down low. Preseason Player of the Year Sydney Johnson is scoring less and leading more — and the Terriers are better for it. Let’s take a look at the numbers and break it down. Here’s a dive into all the details in this week’s notebook:

Colgate’s mission? Not so impossible

Sophomore Morgan McMahon is scoring 9.6 points per game for the third-place Raiders. Colgate faces league co-leader Holy Cross this Wednesday in the team’s biggest game to date. Photo credit: Colgate Athletic Communications

No more flying under the radar in Hamilton. The Raiders are a contender this year. Athletic and deep, they are hard to guard and one of the conference’s best shooting teams, making 41.4% per game — good for third overall.

They stand at 4-2 (10-7 overall) and are tied for third in the standings with Lehigh. Colgate defeated the Mountain Hawks in its head-to-head game at home with a smart, deliberate approach to slowing down Lehigh’s pace-and-space three-point attack.


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The strength of the team this season is its guard play on both ends of the floor. The Raiders are led by senior point guard Alexa Brodie (7.4 ppg) and sophomore Taylor Golembiewski (12.6 ppg). Freshman Madison Schiller has made 15 starts and is a playmaker (5.9 ppg and 3.8 rpg) to keep an eye on. Schiller’s defense has been impactful and she is second on the team with 28 steals.

Sophomores Morgan McMahon and Sophia Diehl have both made starts this season but have found their role as a dynamic duo off the bench. McMahon scored 24 points (7-for-14) in a 64-57 overtime win over Bucknell on the road last weekend. The Raiders banked 35 bench points, outscoring the Bison reserves by 24.

Can they challenge the league’s best? They’ll get another chance in a showdown with first-place Holy Cross on Wednesday. Last week, league co-leader Boston University topped the upset-minded Raiders 72-51 in Boston, cruising to the win behind a sharp-shooting performance from three-point range.

Colgate’s improved defense — limiting teams to just 39.4% from the field — is the biggest reason behind the program’s rising trajectory, but it failed to meet the challenge against the top shooting squad in the Patriot. The Raiders’ defense allowed the Terriers to sink a season-high 11 three-pointers and a 51.9% overall shooting effort — the first and only time an opponent shot better than 50% from the floor against them this year.

What can fans expect in the match-up with Holy Cross this week? A whole lot of defense. The Crusaders come into the game as the league’s top stoppers in both points allowed (52.5 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (35.0%). Colgate is close behind, allowing just 55.9 points per game and is third in field goal percentage defense.

The battle against the Crusaders is another key measuring stick for the talented group from Hamilton. A win for the Raiders would be a giant leap forward in both the belief and expectation that a title shot is within reach this season — a unique year with more opportunity for a team with the right mix at the right time to make history.

Second-year head coach Ganiyat Adeduntan summed up the state of play in the Patriot League after her squad’s win over Lehigh: “It’s wide open. It’s who shows up every single game.”

Shhhhh….Holy Cross is undefeated in league play

Freshman Kaitlyn Flanagan has made 17 starts for a Holy Cross team off to a 6-0 start in Patriot League play. She leads the team with 55 assists and has 21 steals. Photo credit: Mark Seliger Photography

If it’s possible to win quietly, then Holy Cross is the silent assassin of the league.

A favorite that’s hardly favored; a contender but not the top pick, a storyline but not the headline. It would be easy to understand if the Crusaders played with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.

Why?

All they do is win. 

They are currently 14-3 overall and 6-0 in the league. In regular season action, the Crusaders are 20-4 in Patriot League play dating back to last season — the best mark in the conference over that span.

Home court at the Hart Center has been a significant advantage for head coach Maureen Magarity’s team, too. The Crusaders have won 11 of 12 regular season games at home, spanning back to last year.

They are doing it with defense. The Crusaders are one of the most physical teams in the league. If you appreciate the lost art of expertly bumping a cutter off their line, or leveraging a post off their go-to spot down low, then you’ll love watching Holy Cross play defense. 

It’s hard-nosed, old-school defense. And when all five players on the floor play connected and with energy, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

The numbers back it up. Holy Cross tops the league in points allowed (52.5) and field goal percentage defense (35.0%). Senior guard Addisyn Cross is a lockdown defender and combines with freshman Kaitlyn Flanagan (10th in the league in steals) to lead the perimeter.

The interior defense is just as stingy. The team places three players in the league’s top 12 for blocked shots: combo wing Bronagh Power-Cassidy, and forwards Janelle Allen and Lindsay Berger.

Flanagan has played a key role as the lead distributor on offense, too. She’s started all 17 games and leads the team with 55 assists. She’s adding 6.0 points per game.

The presence of 6’2 Berger has added key depth in the post, joining junior Allen as a one-two punch inside. Berger leads the team with 6.5 rebounds, while Allen is second on the team in scoring with 10.6 points per game.

Junior wing Power-Cassidy has been excellent, leading the team in scoring at 11.7 and converting 34.0% from the field. If she can maintain consistency to her game for Holy Cross down the stretch, things could get loud in Worcester.

Boston University is making its case

Picked as the preseason favorite, the Terriers have the best shooting team in the conference and the most effective post combination in Maren Durant and Caitlin Weimar. Will they meet those championship expectations?

So far, so good.

Boston is riding high with a six-game winning streak and finally healthy in its rotation. Guard Alex Giannaros and the 6’4 Weimar have both returned from injury, giving head coach Melissa Graves the steady rotation she’s been seeking — and the team is clicking.

The Terriers can beat you inside or out. They are the top shooting team in the league, sinking 43.7 % from the floor and a league-leading 41.5% from three-point distance. In its 68-52 road win over Army on Sunday, Boston shot a season-high 52.7%–its third straight game shooting over 50%.

Leading the attack on the perimeter is the dynamic Sydney Johnson. The senior is averaging 11.8 points per game and finding ways to integrate her teammates into the offense, creating shots for others and leading the team with 60 assists. She’s playing with the poise of a senior.

Johnson has also excelled from deep, demonstrating an efficiency to her game that has made the Terriers’ guard play the best in the league. She’s shooting 43.2% (19-for-44) from distance. 

Johnson, Giannaros and senior Maggie Pina form a trio of sharpshooters that make it nearly impossible for teams to regularly double-team or dig down on the post for entries down low. Outside the arc, Giannaros is shooting 59.3% (16-for-29), while Pina is converting 47.8% (32-for-67). They make teams pay.

In the paint, the post rotation of Durant (8.0 rpg), Weimar (14.0 ppg) and 6’2 freshman forward Sam Crispe (6.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg) is imposing. The stellar guard shooting is allowing more space for the posts to operate and take advantage of one-on-one match-ups when teams hesitate to double or dig off a perimeter shooter. 

When the posts are being doubled, they are finding open shooters consistently or working in post tandem for easy big-to-big buckets. That post combination has combined for an incredible 92 assists on the season — and Durant is second on the team with 49 helpers.

Is there a contender out there that can challenge Boston? If you’re peeking ahead, co-leaders Holy Cross and the Terriers don’t meet until Feb. 15th and then again for a regular-season finale in Worcester on March 1st.  Plenty of time to get your popcorn ready.

Current Standings:

(League record, overall record)

  1. Holy Cross (6-0, 14-3)
  2. Boston University (6-0, 11-6)
  3. Colgate (4-2, 10-7)
  4. Lehigh (4-2, 8-9)
  5. Bucknell (2-4, 6-11)
  6. Loyola (MD) (2-4, 7-10)
  7. Army (2-4, 4-12)
  8. American (2-4, 3-14)
  9. Lafayette (1-5, 4-12)
  10. Navy (1-5, 1-16)

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

Lindsay Berger helps lead the attack in the post for Holy Cross. The sophomore has made 11 starts this season and is shooting 52.2% from the floor. The Crusaders’ post players should figure prominently in our match-up of the week. Photo credit: Mark Seliger Photography

Holy Cross at Colgate

Wednesday, Jan. 18th @11:00a.m.

If Colgate wants to be in the conversation as a team that can make some noise down the stretch, this is the game they have to have — at home, against a contender that looks a lot like them. A victory will keep the Raiders positioned as a top-four team and give them a win against Holy Cross that few teams in the league are likely to get. Can they do it?

Yes. Colgate is athletic and they can defend. It’s also a team that shoots it well. 

The Raiders allow just 55.9 points per game, second only to the Crusaders, who allow just 52.5. Expect a close and physical match-up.

Attacking the paint consistently and effectively will determine the outcome. Each team attacks inside with different approaches. Colgate’s focus on offense is that mid-range attack off the bounce. The Crusaders make it difficult to attack the paint off the dribble, so the guard match-ups in the middle of the floor will be ones to watch. Taylor Golembiewski (12.6 ppg) and Morgan McMahon (9.6 ppg) will need to come through in the midrange for the Raiders.

The Raiders will also need guards Jenna Paul (32.9% from 3PT) and Madison Schiller (39.3% from 3PT) to hit enough shots from the perimeter to keep the Crusader defense from becoming a shrinking fortress around the paint.

Holy Cross attacks through its post entries and this is a weakness for the Colgate defense. Colgate lacks a big, physical presence in its post rotation and will be challenged to slow down forwards Janelle Allen (10.6 ppg) and Lindsay Berger (9.5 ppg) when they get the ball inside.

Expect the Crusaders to feed the post early and often. Although Allen sometimes struggles to convert around the basket, her involvement in the offense is key to making the Colgate defense bring double-teams and breakdown in rotation under effective passes out of the double. As a result, the offensive board numbers should tilt in the Crusaders’ favor.

To win, Holy Cross needs to outscore Colgate in the paint.

It’s the biggest game of the year this early season — and it’ll be one to watch.

The last meeting: Feb. 23, 2022. The Crusaders won 62-55 in Hamilton. Janelle Allen had 17 points and 8 rebounds as Holy Cross dominated the interior, outscoring the hosts 36-to-14 in the paint. Morgan McMahon led Colgate with 21 points. Point guard Alex Brodie did not play in the game.

League news and notes

  • Lehigh’s Frannie Hottinger (20.9) and Mackenzie Kramer (16.7) are the league’s top scorers, ranked one and two in points per game on the season.
  • American leads the league in steals with 8.12 per contest. Eagle Ivy Bales leads both her team and the league with 2.0 swipes per game.
  • Makayla Andrews has started all 16 games for Lafayette. The junior guard is averaging a team-high 12.4 points per game for the Leopards.
  • Loyola (MD) features three players from Spain. Freshmen Marta Espinal and Cristina Garcia joined sophomore Laura Salmeron this season.
  • Former American University head coach Megan Gebbia has led Wake Forest to an 11-8 start in her first season as lead mentor for the Demon Deacons.
  • Holy Cross’ six-game winning streak is its longest since 2013. 
  • Freshman guard Kelly Ratigan scored a career-high 15 points for Loyola (MD) in a 56-50 home loss to Bucknell. The Indiana native was 6-for-10 from the field with a trio of three-pointers.
  • American forward Emily Johns is building a career-best season. The junior is leading the Eagles in scoring (13.9 ppg) and playing a career-high 29.3 minutes a game. She scored 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting in a 79-77 loss to Lehigh over the weekend.
  • Navy’s 63-43 win over Loyola (MD) snapped a 16-game losing streak to start the season. The 16-game streak eclipsed the program record for consecutive losses in a single season set in 1999-2000 when the team dropped 14 in a row.
  • Army senior forward Sabria Hunter has posted 10 double-doubles this season. Hunter scored 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in a 68-52 loss to Boston University.

Tune in to Patriot League action this week

Junior forward Emily Johns is having a career year as a starter for American University. Photo credit: American Athletic Communications

(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.)

Jan. 18th

Holy Cross at Colgate @11:00a.m.

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

Army at Bucknell @6:00p.m.

Navy at Boston University @6:00p.m.

American at Lafayette @7:00p.m.

Jan. 21st

Navy at Army @11:00a.m.

Colgate at American @2:00p.m.

Bucknell at Holy Cross @2:00p.m.

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

Lehigh at Lafayette @2:00p.m.

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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