Patriot League roundup: Bucknell’s Tessa Brugler; another Lehigh nail-biter; and more news and notes

Bucknell's Tessa Brugler. (Marc Hagemeier photo)
Bucknell's Tessa Brugler. (Marc Hagemeier photo) /

Tessa Brugler stepped off the bench and into a starting role this season. Is she the next star post-player for Bucknell?

You may not be too familiar with the name Tessa Brugler.  The 6’1 forward played a limited supporting role for Bucknell’s successful runs in her first two seasons.  Last year, the Pennsylvania native posted 1.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, and was on the floor for just 7.5 mpg. She played behind First Team All-Patriot League teammate, Kaitlyn Slagus.

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The line of succession for the Bison in the post is impressive. Slagus, who graduated last spring, was a three-time All-Patriot player and last year’s league tournament MVP. Slagus followed Claire DeBoer, a 2017 graduate, who built a similar resume with both league and tournament MVP honors. Each player led her team to the Patriot League title.

It’s a new season with more responsibilities for Brugler in a starting spot for the Bison.  And she’s producing results in that new role. Brugler earned her first Patriot League Player of the Week honor for her effort in wins over George Mason and Drexel. She scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the 64-51 win over Mason. The junior was 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. Against Drexel, she had her third double-double of the season, posting 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Is Brugler ready to assume the lead role in the post every game? It is clear first-year mentor Trevor Woodruff has a growing confidence in her. She’s averaging 31.7 mpg, 15.0 ppg, and 7.2 rpg over the course of Bucknell’s four-game winning streak. The junior forward has become a primary option in the offense, displaying an efficiency that’s won over her new coach. She’s shooting 59.6% from the floor, 83.3% from the free-throw line, and has committed just seven turnovers on the season—the lowest of any rotation player.

Bucknell’s team success and history of accomplished post players may bring added pressure for a player stepping into a new role. But that line of succession in the post seems to suit Brugler just fine. She’s grown into the role and is letting her game do the talking.  What’s it saying so far for the streaking Bison?

Bucknell’s Tessa Brugler. (Marc Hagemeier photo)
Bucknell’s Tessa Brugler. (Marc Hagemeier photo) /

She’s got next.

Another thrilling finish for Lehigh

The basketball gods. They sure do like buzzer-beaters.

It’s explainable, right? That crazy sequence of made shots, missed shots, or a weird bounce or two of the ball can make sense if you break it down: it’s the hard work of players competing; it’s physics, it’s odds or probability; the ball in the right hands at the right time; it’s clutch play; brilliant coaching; poor coaching; it’s just what happens sometimes in games.

Those are all true. And they were each on display as Lehigh visited Mount St. Mary’s for a non-conference game. But the basketball gods were there too.

How else would you explain how the Mountain Hawks erased a seven-point deficit with 26 seconds remaining to defeat the Mount, 66-65, in an improbable and wild finish? The game-winner swished through with just .01 seconds remaining. It was a Megan Walker three-pointer from the right wing that was an absolute no-doubter as soon as it was released. You knew. I knew. We all knew. It just had to end that way, especially after back-to-back buzzer beatings clipped Lehigh on consecutive days at their Thanksgiving-week tournament in the Bahamas. It had to be the basketball gods in action.

So what happened? It started with a lackluster showing from Lehigh and a spirited effort from a speedy and athletic Mount St. Mary’s team. It was an uneven performance for Lehigh. They trailed midway through the first quarter but bounced back to take a 24-15 lead headed into the second. But with just five minutes left in the half, Lehigh fell behind by nine. Again, they rebounded to take a 32-31 lead into the half.

The back-and-forth continued until Mount St. Mary’s nailed back-to-back threes to go up 60-53, with 1:56 remaining. The drama began to build. Lehigh locked in. Walker hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds left to cut the lead to four.  After two successful Mountaineer free throws, Lehigh’s Mary Clougherty nailed another three-pointer to make it a 64-61 game with 15 seconds left. Full court defense tried to make the inbounds pass difficult before the Mountain Hawks would look to foul.

That defense worked as Camryn Buhr then stole an errant inbounds pass from Mount St. Mary’s and hit a short jumper to make it 64-63 with 11 seconds to go. After a successful inbounds and foul, the Mountaineers’ Bridget Birkhead converted just one of two free throws.

Advancing the ball with their last time-out and trailing by two, Lehigh set up for the game’s final play with seven seconds remaining. The Mountain Hawks were able to get the ball to their senior leader Camryn Buhr, whose drive drew Walker’s defender to the ball. Buhr found Walker and she dribbled from the right corner out to the wing for a step-back three and buzzer-beating glory.

Buhr led her team with 20 points and 10 rebounds—her third double-double of the season. The hero, Walker, scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter. The win moved Lehigh to 7-2 on the season. Mount St. Mary’s fell to 4-4. And the basketball gods? Well, they’re undefeated.

After three buzzer-beating games in their last four games, what’s next for Lehigh? The Mountain Hawks visit Minnesota on December 21st. Lehigh has six players on the roster who call Minnesota home. It’s the perfect backdrop for a game with another wild finish.

Tune in to Patriot League action this week:

December 11

UMass at Boston University @11:00a.m.

December 13

Army at Manhattan @7:00p.m.

December 14

Holy Cross at Sacred Heart @2:00p.m.

December 15

American at Radford @2:00p.m.

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

League news and notes:

  • Senior guard Madalyn Smith of Holy Cross scored a career-high 25 points against the University of Rhode Island.
  • Colgate has won their last 15 games when scoring 70 or more points.
  • Boston University freshman Maggie Pina scored a season-high 22 points versus UC-Davis.
  • Lindsey Scamman of Army pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds against LIU. She posted a double-double in the game, also tallying 17 points.
  • Boston University competed in California for the first time since 2003.  The squad lost to UC-Davis, 75-68, and California, 73-62.
  • Lafayette forward Natalie Kucowski scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 52-44 loss to Monmouth. It marked her sixth double-double of the season and the 30th of her career.
  • Sophie Gatzounas of Navy is shooting 56.9% from the floor this season (41-72).
  • Army is 2-0 in OT games this season.
  • Colgate’s Abby Schubiger scored a career-high 15 points in an 88-51 win over Siena.  The senior forward averaged a 2.8 ppg as a junior but is scoring 9.6 ppg this year.
  • Navy announced it will retire the jersey of Courtney (Davidson) O’Brien. The 2004 Navy graduate is just one of seven Patriot League players to have earned All-League honors in each of four seasons.
  • Boston University shot a season-best 11-for-20 from three-point range against UC-Davis.
  • Sophomore guard Jade Edwards leads American with 17.8 ppg in eight starts this season.
  • Stephanie Karcz of Loyola (MD) is the Division 1 leader in steals per game. She has six or more steals in each of her last seven games.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Tessa Brugler, Bucknell, Junior Forward

  • The emerging junior posted a career-high in scoring with 24 points in a 64-51 win against George Mason.
  • Brugler notched 10 points and 11 rebounds to extend Bucknell’s winning streak to four games in a victory over Drexel.
  • Posted back-to-back double-doubles in the game versus George Mason and Drexel. Each 11-rebound effort matched her career high.
  • Against George Mason, Brugler hit 9-of-11 shots from the field and converted 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week:

Hope Brown, Army, Freshman Guard

  • Brown led Army to a 67-60 overtime win over Long Island University with a career-high 20 points.
  • Logged a season-highs with 33 minutes played and eight rebounds against LIU.
  • Made more threes against LIU than in all seven previous games. The hot-shooting freshman was 3-of-5 from distance and was 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.
  • Brown’s rookie totals impress: 42 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, five assists, and a .733 free-throw shooting percentage.

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