February 23, 2022 

Patriot League notebook: The three-hunters of Lehigh

Can Lehigh shoot its way into another championship?

No one shoots the three-ball like Lehigh. Only three teams in the nation have attempted more shots from deep. Despite navigating injuries to three starters along the way, the defending champions have emerged as one of the most dangerous teams to face this season due to their ability to convert from deep. Can Lehigh repeat as league champions pushing the ball in transition and hunting threes on every possession? Let’s examine how things look from behind the arc in this week’s notebook:

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Mackenzie Kramer leads a three-point attack for the record books

It’s hunting season in Bethlehem. Lehigh is finding the three-line and hunting deep shots at a record pace.

Over the weekend, the Mountain Hawks set a new Patriot league and program record with 17 made threes in a 73-49 win over Loyola (MD). Sophomore sharp-shooter Mackenzie Kramer led the way with a 7-for-11 effort from distance on her way to 23 points.

Lehigh’s approach on offense is to push and attack and find the open shooter outside the arc both in transition and in its half-court motion offense. The team is 257-for-763 on the season from deep for a 33.7% mark. How do those attempts stack up with the rest of the league?

Graph credit: CBB Analytics

Three teams (American, Lafayette and Loyola) have yet to reach 400 three-point attempts this season and no other team has hit the 600-mark. No one in the league is close to Lehigh in its commitment to the three-ball and they’re one of the most prolific shooting teams from deep in the country. Currently, Lehigh is ranked fourth nationally for threes attempted.

The Mountain Hawks are willing passers as well, and all five players on the court hunt the assist as effectively as they look to score.

The player most often finding the assist? Clair Steele. The senior point guard leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 3.89 mark. Steele had eight assists against Loyola (MD), and the team assisted on 23 of its 25 made baskets. She found Kramer multiple times.

What does Kramer mean to the offensive philosophy? The sophomore’s presence invokes the ‘no help’ rule from most defenses. As a result, her position on the perimeter helps create the space teammates need to attack the basket.

Those help defenders have learned the hard way not to leave her; Kramer is accurate and consistent when she has the time and space to shoot. She’s made five or more threes in a game nine times this year and is shooting 43.1% from deep on an 87-for-202 effort. Lehigh averages 29.7 attempts per contest.

Dagger threes can really hurt a defense, but it’s not just those quick burst of points making the approach work. The Mountain Hawks are reaping the benefits of how effectively they can spread the floor against opponents with the threat of the three-ball, too. As a result, they lead the league in shooting percentage from inside the arc.

The tight close-outs from defenders, combined with opponents who won’t leave their shooter to help, create a ton of one-on-one opportunities inside and attacking drives to the rim. Lehigh shoots a league-leading 50.3% on two-point field goals—although the team attempts the fewest in the conference at 32.5 per game.

Graph credit: CBB Analytics

What’s next for Lehigh? No doubt they’re going to get a big dose of team defenses that won’t help down off the perimeter and will force them to win with the two-ball, challenging them to convert the one-on-one chances available in the paint consistently.

Can the Mountain Hawks counter that strategy? Seniors Emma Grothaus (12.7 ppg) and Megan Walker (11.4 ppg) are very capable scorers in the paint and at the rim. But Lehigh is missing its most effective scorer in the middle of the floor—junior Frannie Hottinger. She has been nursing an ankle injury for several weeks and, although she has returned for spot minutes over the last two weeks, is not back to full strength.

No matter the line-up, Lehigh is making history from deep. And if defenses give them a little too much room on the perimeter, the Mountain Hawks might just shoot their way into another championship.

Former Patriot League players doing the (graduate) work

Several former Patriot league players were in action this weekend in big games for their new teams, including battles against No. 10 UConn and No. 18 Ohio State. A few familiar names to league fans are having great seasons as graduate students. Here’s a look:

Katie Nelson. The Boston University graduate plays for Wisconsin and starts for former Terrier coach Marisa Moseley. Nelson took the court for all 40 minutes this weekend versus Ohio State and scored 10 points while adding four assists in a 59-42 loss.

She plays 38.1 minutes per game while scoring 7.2 points and dishing 3.5 assists. She had a season-high 24 points against Penn State back on Jan. 23.

Mary Clougherty. The Lehigh graduate competes for Georgetown and played 25 minutes on Sunday against Connecticut. The shooting guard scored a team-high 15 points versus the Huskies on five three-pointers. She averages 4.8 points per game for the Hoyas.

Tessa Brugler. The former Bucknell Bison is suiting up in her graduate year for the Drexel Dragons. Over the weekend, Brugler helped Drexel to a 65-64 win over conference foe Delaware. Brugler had nine points, nine rebounds, three blocks and three assists. Drexel is 21-3 on the season.

She’s started all 24 games and is the second-leading scorer on the team with 13.8 points per game. Brugler leads the team in rebounding with 8.6 per game and in blocks with 33. Drexel holds first place in the CAA with four games remaining.

Ellie Mack. The Bucknell graduate is in her final season with the Oregon State Beavers. She scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in a 68-59 win over California this weekend in PAC-12 action.

Mack plays 23.0 minutes per game and is shooting 46.2% from the floor. She averages 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. She scored a season-high 19 points versus Oregon on Feb. 11.

Current Standings:

(League record, overall record)

  1. Boston University (11-4, 15-11)
  2. Holy Cross (11-4, 17-9)
  3. Bucknell (10-5, 19-7)
  4. American (10-5, 17-8)
  5. Lehigh (10-5, 18-8)
  6. Army (9-6, 15-10)
  7. Lafayette (5-10, 9-16)
  8. Navy (4-11, 7-18)
  9. Colgate (4-11, 6-20)
  10. Loyola (MD) (1-14, 4-21)

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

Bucknell at Boston University

Saturday, February 26th @2:00p.m.

This one will have playoff intensity to match its implications. Each team has a path to first place with a victory here in the biggest game of the season to date for both programs. Bucknell is riding high with big wins over Holy Cross and Lehigh as part of its three-game winning streak and looking re-energized for its push to the finish line. Boston University heads into the week holding on to first place but searching for momentum after losing to Colgate last weekend.

Senior Taylor O’Brien looked in top form for the Bison in wins last week over Lehigh and Lafayette. The senior averaged 25.0 points and appeared to regain her shooting touch, going 20-for-43 combined. O’Brien (16.3 ppg) and freshman Cecelia Collins (11.4 ppg)lead the Bison.

The Terriers are led by junior guard Sydney Johnson (16.0 ppg) and posts Caitlin Weimar and Maren Durant. Can Boston exploit its size advantage in the post, or will the Bucknell defense pack in and force the Terrier guards to beat them?

In round one, the undersized Bison sank deep in the paint and played off Durant and Weimar when they were on the perimeter, crowding the driving lanes for Johnson. Will forward Chiara Tibbitt and her perimeter shooting ability see more court time to counter? Can Bucknell close the rebounding gap this time around?

The last meeting: Feb. 2, 2022. The Terriers won 67-58 in Lewisburg. Boston committed eight turnovers in a poor first quarter but rebounded for a decisive 20-4 second quarter. The game’s biggest shot came from freshman Alex Giannaros who nailed a three-pointer to double the Terrier lead to 60-54 with just 1:23 remaining. Boston dominated the rebounding battle 42-27 behind Weimar (11) and Durant (8).

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.)

February 23rd

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

Army at Bucknell @6:00p.m.

Lehigh at American @7:00p.m.

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

Holy Cross at Colgate @7:00p.m.

February 26th

Holy Cross at Army @1:00p.m.

Bucknell at Boston University @2:00p.m.

American at Loyola (MD) @4:00p.m.

Colgate at Navy @4:00p.m.

Lafayette at Lehigh @7:00p.m.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Taylor O’Brien, Bucknell, Senior Guard

  • Scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a key 56-54 win over Lehigh.
  • Led the Bison to a 2-0 week with a team-high 23 points in a 68-60 overtime win over Lafayette.
  • O’Brien leads Bucknell in scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) and has a team-best 53 steals.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week

Abby Antognoli, Lafayette, Freshman Guard

  • Posted a season-best 20 points in a 77-61 win over Loyola (MD) on 7-for-10 shooting.
  • Antognoli shot 4-for-6 from three-point range to help Lafayette to a season best 55.0% from behind the arc, going 11-for-20 versus the Greyhounds.
  • Third on the team with 8.6 points per game. The New Jersey native has made 10 starts for the Leopards and plays 30.1 minutes per game.

League news and notes

  • Senior guard Alisa Fallon reached the 1,000-point plateau in Army’s 67-62 overtime win over American University. Fallon’s 11-point effort pushed her total to 1,003 points. She is the 19th Cadet to reach the milestone.
  • Avery LaBarbera earned her 15th double-double of the season in Holy Cross’ 63-57 victory over Navy. The senior guard fell just short of a triple-double as she scored 11 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and dished out eight assists.
  • Bucknell is 12th in the NCAA in points allowed, surrendering just 53.9 points per game. The Bison are tops in the league, just ahead of Holy Cross which allows 56.2 a contest.
  • Loyola (MD) senior guard Devyne Newman scored a season-high 15 points in a 73-49 loss to Lehigh. Newman went 7-for-11 from the floor and added a three-pointer for the Greyhounds.
  • Army leads the league in combined team rebounds with 41.8 per game. The Black Knights are also the top team on the offensive glass, grabbing 15.1 offensive boards per game. Forward Sabria Hunter leads the squad with 9.6 rebounds per contest.
  • Freshman Lex Therien has 13 double-doubles on the season. The Loyola (MD) forward is posting 12.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and leads the Greyhounds in each category.
  • Seven different players have won the league’s Rookie of the Week award.
  • Boston University freshman Alex Gianarros failed to make a three-pointer (0-for-4) in the Terriers’ 64-61 upset loss to Colgate. It was just the second time in 14 starts that the rookie didn’t convert from distance. Gianarros went 0-2 from behind the arc back on Dec. 21st in a 78-49 loss to Georgia Tech.

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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