PHILADELPHIA – Senior Sune Swart and sophomore Kaitlyn Slagus combined for 42 points and 18 rebounds to lead Bucknell to a come-from-behind 64-61 win at Saint Joseph’s in non-conference women’s basketball action Sunday at Hagan Arena.
Bucknell erased a 15-point deficit to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2008-09. Saint Joseph’s, which fell to Big 5 rival Temple on Friday, dropped to 0-2. It was the Bison’s first win over the Hawks in four tries, although the teams hadn’t met since 2006.
“This was a good win for the program. It was a tough environment and we were maybe a little shell-shocked early,” said Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell, who was coaching against an Atlantic 10 team for the first time. “I am incredibly proud of the character this group showed in chipping away at the 15-point deficit. I really felt we’d have a great chance if we could just get it back to being a relatively close game during the third quarter.”
The Bison dominated the paint for the second time in three days, out-scoring the Hawks 42-28. Swart led the way with her second career double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Slagus finished with 17 points and eight boards.
Swart, whose career-high entering this season was 18 points, has scored 25 points in back-to-back games to start the season and is averaging 9.0 rebounds. She is the first Bison player to score at least 25 points in back-to-back games since 2010. Slagus recorded a double-double in the season opener and is averaging 17.0 points and 12.0 rebounds through two games.
Bucknell didn’t take its first lead until 43 seconds remained in the game. Trailing 59-57 with 1:40 to play, senior Claire DeBoer hit one of two free throws to cut the deficit to one. Swart grabbed a rebound at the other end and then hit a pair of free throws to give the Bison a 60-59 lead.
Free throws proved pivotal as Bucknell made five-of six in the final 1:40 on its way to the win. Following the two by Swart, sophomore guard Kyi English hit a pair to put the Bison up three. Saint Joseph’s responded with a bucket at the other end, but Slagus put the lead back to three with another two points from the line.
Saint Joseph’s had one last chance after inbounding with five seconds to play, but its game-tying 3-point attempt was off the mark.
Bucknell was forced to make the comeback after digging itself an early hole, falling behind 23-10 after one quarter due in large part to eight turnovers. Swart did her part, scoring the team’s first eight points. She finished the half with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and a 2-of-4 mark at the line. The Bison trailed 33-22 at the break, but cut that to two, 41-39, after three quarters.
“It was a great experience for our players to be in a close road game like that,” Roussell said. “I’m excited to see how this benefits our team later in the year.”
English helped fuel the second-half run, scoring all 10 of her points in the final two quarters. DeBoer continued to be one of the most versatile forwards in the league, contributing five points, six rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Kate Walker came off the bench and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Junior Catherine Romaine did the same and needed just nine minutes on the floor to pull down five boards and tally two blocks.
Adashia Franklin led four Hawks’ players in double-figures with 18 points. Chelsea Woods was right behind her with 15. It was the second straight game the team had four players score in double-digits.
Bucknell finished with a 49-27 advantage on the boards and now has a +19.5 rebounding margin through two games. The Bison have won the rebounding battle in 59 of the past 65 games.
The Bison will look to start 3-0 when they host NJIT for the 2016-17 home opener on Thursday. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.