Patriot League roundup: Lehigh conquers Seton Hall; Holy Cross in the zone; and more news and notes

Lauren Manis. Mark Seliger Photography/Holy Cross Athletics
Lauren Manis. Mark Seliger Photography/Holy Cross Athletics /

“Hey you guys!”…..Lehigh beat Seton Hall

You remember 1985. Popping in that recently-released Springsteen ‘Born in the USA’ cassette tape, grabbing a can of ‘New Coke’ and heading to the movie theatre to watch ‘The Goonies’ with friends. Lehigh remembers, too—it was the last time they beat the Seton Hall Pirates.

The two teams met last week in Stabler Arena for a back-and-forth battle that showed Lehigh’s mental toughness, their ability to make in-game adjustments, and the poise of their senior leadership. Lehigh came out on top, 75-68, to move to 5-0.

The first quarter was a confidence-builder for the home team.  They employed a 2-3 zone to contend with Seton Hall’s quickness and athleticism and made it to the first media timeout with a 12-5 lead. While they struggled to keep the ball in front of them at times, Lehigh’s ability to get back in transition proved just effective enough to slow the Pirates.

The visitors had difficulty finding their offense early playing without senior forward Shadeen Samuels, out with a hamstring injury. Samuels is averaging 9.5 PPG and 8.5 RPG. Her absence had the biggest impact on the boards as Lehigh outrebounded the Pirates, 52-44.

The Mountain Hawks used effective backdoor cuts against Seton Hall’s overplaying pressure defense in the half-court and adjusted well to the switch made by Head Coach Anthony Bozzella to a 2-3 zone midway through the second quarter. Lehigh responded with a 10-4 run against the zone, capped by a Katie Rice three-pointer with 30 seconds left in the half and they went to the locker room up 40-34. Seton Hall led for only 38 seconds the half.

In the third quarter, a spectacular lefty lay-up by Claire Steele gave Lehigh their last lead of the frame. Seton Hall responded with a lay-in by Jasmine Smith off a well-executed dribble hand-off and headed into the fourth quarter with a 54-53 lead.

The teams traded small leads and the back-and-forth battle hit its peak when Smith hit a floater to tie the game at 66 with 2:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. The veteran Mountain Hawk squad responded with the poise you’d expect from a roster with seven seniors. Senior captain Camryn Buhr’s pass into the paint to Meagan Eripret led to a score and foul but a missed and-one opportunity that put the hosts up 68-66 with 2:18 to play.

It was a terrific chess match between Lehigh Head Coach Sue Troyan and Bozzella.  They countered line-up changes with adjustments between man-to-man and zone defenses all game.  But while the 2-3 zone challenged Lehigh’s lack of a consistent deep perimeter threat, it also surrendered multiple offensive boards—none more important than Eripret’s grab off a Buhr missed three-point attempt with 1:42 on the clock.

Eripret was fouled on her follow-up attempt and converted one of two free throws to bump the lead to three, 69-66. Lehigh would go on to win 75-68 after converting all six free throws in the last 1:07.

So what did the Lehigh victory back in 1985 mean for that team? The Mountain Hawks went on to win the conference championship that season under former coach, Muffet McGraw. Is this year’s gang of teammates on their way to claim end-of-the-season treasure after chasing down the Pirates? It’s an adventure Coach Troyan and company plan to keep pursuing.

Goonies never say die.

Holy Cross in the zone

If you’re a team with dreams of March Madness, the formula for success is an old recipe: you’re going to have to demonstrate success on offense against various styles of man-to-man and zone defenses; find a way to slow down an opponent’s star player; and establish a physical presence on the boards. Merrimack College presented an early-season test for that blueprint against Holy Cross this weekend and found the Crusaders have all the ingredients.

The hosts used a pair of runs in the first and third quarters to blow past Merrimack College, 68-42.  It marked the third straight win for the Crusaders.

Merrimack played a 2-3 zone and extended to a full-court 2-2-1 zone after scores—and it took some getting used to. Holy Cross struggled with their zone offense, scoring just 68 points–a season-low. They had trouble finding the gaps in the zone and creating open looks in a slow start. Trailing 6-4 with 3:30 remaining in the first, Madalyn Smith sank a three-pointer to get things rolling and give Holy Cross a lead it would not relinquish.

Merrimack star center Denia Davis-Stewart had four of her five blocks in the first 5:15 of the game and repelled most challenges at the rim. She’s been a dominating presence for the Warriors, starting the season with a 31-point, 13-rebound effort in a season-opening win over UMass. She entered the game with 31 blocks on the season and anchors the interior of the zone.

But Holy Cross adjusted their attack and found better spacing and rhythm on offense as the game progressed. While the Crusaders excel playing up-tempo, they found their flow on offense with a more patient attack, better ball movement and less over-penetration into the teeth of the zone where Davis-Stewart was waiting.

Leading the charge for the offense was Avery LaBarbera who posted 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists against one turnover. She shot 4-7 from three-point range and helped the offense settle in and find comfortable shots against Merrimack’s zone. A 12 for 36 team effort from the field in the first half transformed into a 15 for 31 performance in the second as Holy Cross solved the defensive puzzle.

Slowing down Davis-Stewart fell to 6’ 3” forward Megan Swords whose size and physicality kept her counterpart from posting up deep in the lane or getting easy mid-range touches. Swords’ length also allowed for consistent shot contests from the perimeter. Davis-Stewart entered the match-up averaging 19.4 PPG and 12.4 RPG. The Crusaders limited her to a 3-16 effort from the field, nine points, and six rebounds. Merrimack struggled from the field overall, shooting just 22.2% (14 for 63).

An aggressive effort on the boards led to a 53-34 edge.  The Crusaders made the most of playing against a zone and grabbed 15 offensive boards. Their plus-10 rebounding margin on the season is notable as three of four games on the year have been against Seton Hall, Boston College, and Illinois.

Next up for Holy Cross (3-1) is a four-game stretch on the road beginning with a match-up this Sunday against Brown University (3-3).

Chairwoman of the boards

Holy Cross forward Lauren Manis is on a mission. The Patriot League Pre-season Player of the Year is averaging 17.0 PPG and 13.3 RPG and she’s setting the tone for her squad on the boards.

Manis secured 20 rebounds against Merrimack—the second time this short season she’s had 20 or more rebounds in a game.  Her seven offensive boards helped offset some of her team’s struggle against the Warriors’ zone and led to a dominating 53-34 rebounding edge for the game.

She also hauled into a school-record 21 rebounds in the season-opener at Illinois to go along with 22 points. That performance marked the second 20-20 game of her career, also accomplishing the feat against Navy on February 7th, 2018.

Her performance against Merrimack was the 40th double-double of her career—tied for second in program history. She has 876 career rebounds.

Grab a turkey leg and the remote

If watching football isn’t part of your holiday tradition, tune in to these two Patriot League match-ups this Thanksgiving Day:

Bucknell vs. Cincinnati @3:30 p.m.

Lehigh vs. Ball State @4:00 p.m.

Your eyes can feast on Bison and Bearcats by streaming the game through If you prefer the traditional bird menu, you can listen to the Mountain Hawks take on the Cardinals through

League news and notes:

  • Navy senior guard Morgan Taylor notched her first double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and securing 10 rebounds in a 46-41 loss to Maine.
  • Colgate dropped their first game of the season, 61-51, to Saint Louis. They are 5-1.
  • Loyola (MD) is second in assists among Patriot League teams this season with 16.4 per game.
  • American University (2-3) fell to Towson, 63-60, on the road. Next up for American: the Saint Joseph’s Tournament in Philadelphia this weekend.
  • Bucknell’s 12-game home winning streak came to an end with a 72-61 loss to Temple.
  • Lindsey Scamman of Army has posted double-digits in scoring four times this year after accomplishing the feat just three times all of last season.
  • Lafayette College posted wins over Long Island University 65-60, and University of Albany 54-47, to cap a perfect week and even their record at 3-3.
  • Boston University guard Katie Nelson is the only player in the NCAA to play every minute of every game this season.
  • Army (1-4) faces TCU and Fairleigh Dickinson this week.
  • American University senior Kaitlyn Marenyi scored a season-high 21 points against Towson.
  • Natalie Kucowski posted 15 points and 14 rebounds in Lafayette’s 54-47 win over Albany for her fifth double-double this season.
  • Boston University is 3-0 on the road this season. It marks the first 3-0 road start since 2006-2007. Next up for BU (3-1) is a home game versus Harvard (3-2).
  • Bucknell junior forward Tessa Brugler posted her first career double-double, scoring 15 points and hauling in 11 rebounds off the bench against Temple.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Avery LaBarbera, Holy Cross, Sophomore Guard

  • Averaged 22 points and eight rebounds per game, posted seven steals, and dished 11 assists and with just one turnover.
  • Led Holy Cross to a 2-0 week with wins over Bryant 87-75, and Merrimack 68-42.
  •  Finished the week shooting 55.2% from the floor, including 7 for 12 from three-point range.
  • Leads Holy Cross with 18.3 PPG, 4.5 APG and 2.0 steals a game this season.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week:

Kamryn Hall, Army, Freshman Forward

  • Recorded her first career double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds against Columbia.
  • Started all five games for Army this season and is averaging 7.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 25.4 MPG.
  • Reached double-figures in scoring in games for the week, posting 13 points against St. Francis-Brooklyn and 11 points against Columbia.
  • Made all three of her three-point attempts against Columbia. Her 41.7% from three-point distance is best on the team (5 for 12).

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