LEWISBURG, Pa. - Sune Swart scored a team-high 20 points and the top-seeded Bucknell women's basketball team fought off eighth-seeded Loyola (Md.) to advance to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals with a 75-72 victory over the Greyhounds Monday evening at Sojka Pavilion.
Kaitlyn Slagus, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and four assists, made two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining to give the Bison a three-point lead. After a timeout advanced the ball to halfcourt, the Greyhounds had one final possession, but an off-balance jumper by Molly Taylor at the buzzer was blocked by Claire DeBoer, clinching the Bucknell victory. The Bison tied a program record for wins in a season – previously set last season – with a mark of 25-5.
Swart was 8-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Her second 3-pointer may have been the biggest shot of the game. She took a pass in the corner with time running down on the shot clock and hit nothing but net to break a late game tie, putting the Bison up 71-68 with 2:51 to play.
Bucknell didn’t trail the rest of the way, but Loyola didn’t go away easy. English put the Bison up five, 73-68, on the team’s next possession, but the Greyhounds responded with back-to-back buckets by Bri Betz White to cut the margin to one, 73-72. Slagus then made her two free throws and DeBoer had the key defensive play to secure the Bison’s eighth straight victory and a spot in the semifinal round for the second year in a row.
Bucknell shot 59 percent (29-49) from the field, and Loyola wasn’t far behind at 50 percent (27-54). The Bison were 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, while the Greyhounds went 9-of-19 after making four of their first five 3-pointer attempts.
“We shot 60 percent for the game and still needed a stop at the end to win,” Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell said. “That’s a credit to Loyola and how well they were coached tonight and how well they played. On the flip side of that, I saw some outstanding mental toughness from our team.”
The high field goal percentage was a result of Bucknell’s dominance inside as it finished with a 44-26 advantage in the paint. The Bison also had more bench production with 16 points from their reserves compared to zero points off the bench by the Greyhounds.
Loyola’s early success from long range helped it take an 18-13 lead after one quarter. Bucknell led 34-31 at the half and then upped its lead to 57-53 after three quarters.
Bucknell only played eight players but received significant contributions from all eight. Gia Hayes tallied seven points in five minutes off the bench, including five straight midway through the third quarter to give the Bison their largest lead of the game, 52-42. Catherine Romaine scored six points in eight minutes of playing time.
“Our bench was huge tonight,” Roussell said. “For us to go 16-0 in bench production says a lot about the roster that we have. We have so many players that can step up when we need it.”
The Bison had 16 assists, led by Slagus, English, and Megan McGurk with four apiece. English finished with 12 points.
The Greyhounds were led by 25 points from Lauren Daugherty, who was 4-for-6 from 3-point range. She was coming off a 21-point performance in a first-round win over Lehigh.
The Bison have now won 26 consecutive home games and they will be home once again for the semifinals against American on Friday at 5 p.m. Sojka Pavilion will also host the semifinal game between Navy and Army West Point at 7:30 p.m.