Patriot League roundup: Bucknell wins clash of league leaders; top takeaways; and more news and notes

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

Bucknell tops Lehigh in contest of championship contenders

In a battle of the league’s top two defenses, visiting Bucknell made quick work of Lehigh, 71-50. The game failed to live up to the expectation of the Patriot League’s top two teams—each undefeated in conference play—squaring off for sole possession of first place. Bucknell led from wire-to-wire, dictating play on both ends of the floor and seizing the early inside track for a first place finish. Junior Abby Kapp led the Bison with a career-high 23 points on the strength of six three-pointers.

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Bucknell (13-4, 6-0) jumped out to a 20-7 first quarter lead and was never threatened.  The Bison shot 52.9% for the game and sank a season-high 11 three-pointers despite playing their second game without starting point guard Marly Walls, who injured her ACL in the fourth quarter of a win on the road over Holy Cross last week. Despite Walls’ absence, the visitors had their best offensive performance of the season. Cameryn Benz led the Mountain Hawks with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Defense is the mantra for each of these teams but Bucknell had the better performance from the start. They held Lehigh to 32.8% shooting including 26.7% from three-point range. Each team attempted to dictate early on with full-court pressure: Bucknell employed an odd-man front and looked for sideline traps, taking Lehigh out of rhythm on offense. Lehigh countered with pressure of their own: a 2-2-1 full-court look that fell back into a 2-3 zone. But early scoring woes provided little opportunity to set up that pressure.

Bucknell now sits alone in first place having already defeated the top two contenders in the pre-season poll. The Bison have won 11 out of their last 12 games and will meet Lehigh in Lewisburg for a rematch on February 22nd. What does this result say about the league and where these two teams are headed? Let’s take a look at the top takeaways from the game:

Top takeaways from Bucknell’s convincing win over Lehigh:

Lehigh substitutes too much, too often

You won’t find rhythm or flow in the box score and they aren’t statistical categories–but ask any shooter or coach and they’ll tell you if they’ve had them in a game. Lehigh had neither against Bucknell. Credit the defense? Sure. But the Mountain Hawks’ substitution patterns and frequency are noteworthy here.  Not counting the changes made at the breaks in-between quarters, Lehigh made 60 substitutions. That’s an extraordinary amount of line-up changes. For comparison, Bucknell made 19.

It’s really challenging to come off the bench and shoot well even for the best of shooters. It takes some time to feel and understand the defense, adjust to pace, and hunt your shot. Do the frequent substitutions have a negative impact on the team’s shooting? Lehigh is eighth in the conference in shooting at 38.1%. Conclusion: their top five or six players need more minutes.

Teams will need to adjust to Bucknell

The Bison are doing it with defense. Through six conference games, the Bison are allowing just 42.5 points per game. They are also tops in field goal percentage defense, limiting teams to just 30.1% shooting. The next team in either category isn’t even close. They are 6-0 and have already defeated the top two league favorites handily on the road.

So what does the rest of the league need to do? Make an adjustment. The Bison have established themselves as the early favorite. Credit Head Coach Trevor Woodruff and his staff: they are developing a team and style to which teams must now adjust. Any program with championship aspirations should be building to beat their pack-line style approach—and that will take developing the daily habits to challenge that particular defensive design. Well-prepared game scouts are great, but won’t do it alone.

Bucknell’s Abby Kapp and Ellie Mack are pure shooters

Every three-point shot Bucknell made must have felt like a dagger for the Lehigh defense. The Mountain Hawks defense is second in the league in points allowed and has been consistently good all season. But as Lehigh struggled to score, it seemed like Bucknell couldn’t miss. Junior Abby Kapp nearly didn’t. Her 6-for-8 performance from three-point range led a sharp-shooting attack that kept the Mountain Hawks at bay throughout. Kapp went 8-for-11 for the game and is averaging 11.0 ppg.

Teammate Ellie Mack was an efficient 5-for-7 from the field and 1-for 2 from three-point distance for 13 points.  She’s averaging a team-high 14.3 ppg. The shooting prowess of Kapp and Mack is keeping defenses off balance. They are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the league for three-point shooting percentage. Kapp is shooting 42.2% from behind the arc (46-for-109) and Mack is converting 41.3% (26-for-63).

Colgate is now the X-factor

This week’s Bucknell-Colgate match-up just became all the more intriguing. As the Bison cemented first-place with their convincing win, the Raiders quietly put together a 2-0 week of their own to move to 13-4 (5-1) with wins over Lafayette and Boston University. It’s the first time in program history that they’ve reached those marks at this point in a season.

A Colgate win and they’d grab a share of first-place. The game pits the top scoring and shooting team in the Raiders against the top defense in the league for both points allowed and field goal percentage defense in Bucknell. Something’s got to give. Can Colgate continue its shooting excellence? How will the Bison handle the match-up zone of the Raiders? A lot on the line for this one.


Bucknell (13-4, 6-0)

Colgate (13-4, 5-1)

Lehigh (13-4, 5-1)

Holy Cross (11-6, 4-2)

Boston University (8-9, 3-3)

Lafayette (7-9, 3-3)

American (6-10, 2-4)

Army (5-12, 1-5)

Loyola (MD) (4-13, 1-5)

Navy (5-12, 0-6)

Game of the Week:

Colgate at Bucknell @6:00p.m. January 22nd

First-place is on the line in a match-up of teams with contrasting styles. In conference play, Colgate leads the league with 76.7 ppg while Bucknell is tops in defense for points allowed at 42.5 ppg. The squads are 1-2 in shooting percentage on the season as well: Colgate is hitting 45.6% and the Bison convert at a 43.1% rate.

Pre-season All-Patriot League guard Rachel Thompson leads a Raider team breaking new ground each week. The senior guard is the league-leader in scoring at 17.8 ppg and will be the key match-up for a suffocating Bucknell defense. Senior Ellie Mack leads her team with 14.3 ppg and 7.4 rpg.

The heart of the match-up is at the defensive end—and that may favor the Bison. It’s a battle of Colgate’s match-up zone versus Bucknell’s pack-line style man-to-man defense. The defending conference champions will be without sophomore Marly Walls who is out for the season with an ACL injury. These big game opportunities are new for the Raiders and the experience of the moment may be the deciding factor.

The last meeting: February 16, 2019. A 76-58 Bucknell victory last season in which the Bison converted nine three-pointers. Colgate shot 31.7% from the floor.

Tune in to Patriot League action this week:

January 22nd

Loyola (MD) at American @11:30a.m.

Lafayette at Army @6:00p.m.

Colgate at Bucknell @6:00p.m.

Holy Cross at Lehigh @6:00p.m.

Boston University at Navy@7:00p.m.

January 25th

Army at Navy @11:00a.m.

American at Colgate @2:00p.m.

Lehigh at Lafayette @2:00p.m.

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

Holy Cross at Boston University @4:00p.m.

League news and notes:

  • Bucknell leads the league in free throw shooting with a 75.1% mark.
  • Stephanie Karcz posted 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 steals for her second triple-double this season in a Loyola (MD) win over Army, 68-59.
  • Kaitlyn Marenyi scored a career-high 24 points against Holy Cross.
  • Junior forward Natalie Kucowski scored 15 points in a 79-52 win over Navy that helped her surpass the 1,000-point mark for her career.
  • Bucknell evened its all-time series record with Lehigh at 43-43.
  • Army’s Lindsey Scamman secured her sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds versus Loyola (MD).
  • Three Boston University freshman reached double-figures in scoring in a 70-61 home loss to Colgate. Sydney Johnson totaled 18 points, Maggie Pina added 13, and Maren Durant scored 10 for the Terriers.
  • The only teams in the league with more than a one-game winning streak are Bucknell (six straight) and Colgate (5 straight). They face each other Wednesday.
  • Sophomore forward Riley Childs grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in a 44-42 BU win over Loyola (MD).
  • Ava Therien scored in double-figures for the fourth time this season in 68-59 Loyola (MD) win over Army.
  • Stephanie Karcz of Loyola (MD) grabbed three steals against Boston University to reach the 400-mark for her career. She’s the 27th player in NCAA history to accomplish the feat.
  • Loyola (MD) leads the conference in steals with 11.9 per game.
  • Sophomore guard Alisa Fallon scored 21 points and hauled in 11 rebounds to lead Army to a 61-48 upset win over Holy Cross.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Rachel Thompson, Colgate, Senior Guard

  • Leads the Patriot League in both scoring (17.8 ppg) and assists (5.2 apg).
  • Scored a season-high 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting in a 70-61 win over Boston University.
  • Thompson averaged 23.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in wins over Lafayette and Boston University.
  • Scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting and added eight rebounds in a 73-52 win over Lafayette.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week:

Maren Durant, Boston University, Freshman Forward

  • Durant established season-highs with 10 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to Colgate.
  • The freshman shot 50.0% (3-for-6) from the floor, and had a game-high 12 rebounds.
  • The double-double against Colgate was a career first.
  • Durant leads Boston University with 17 blocks—good for third in the Patriot League

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