BUCKNELL CAPTURES PATRIOT LEAGUE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TITLE WITH 57-45 WIN OVER HOLY CROSS!
March 12, 2008
WORCESTER, Mass. - Rendering last year's Patriot League Tournament frustration a distant memory, Bucknell completed its championship quest as an underdog, capturing the program's second league championship with a convincing 57-45 victory over Holy Cross at the Hart Center on Wednesday night.
In a total team effort at both ends of the floor, fifth-seeded Bucknell earned its second NCAA Tournament berth by defeating the Patriot League's No. 2 and 4 seeds on their home courts and the No. 1 seed at a neutral site. Bucknell's other Patriot League title also came at the Hart Center in 2002, but other than head coach Kathy Fedorjaka and assistant coach Monique LeBlanc, who was a player on that team, this was the first time raising the trophy for this group.
Bucknell's NCAA Tournament destination will be announced live on ESPN on Monday, March 17 at 7 p.m. First-round games are slated for March 22 and 23.
Amanda Brown scored 14 points and Tournament MVP Kesha Champion had 13 points and eight rebounds, but perhaps the team's biggest lift came from freshman reserve Cosima Higham, who went 4-for-4 from the floor and finished with 10 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals in 21 minutes. Lauren Schober added 10 points and six assists for the Bison, who dominated the last eight minutes of the first half in building a 14-point halftime lead.
There were eight lead changes and two ties in the first 12 minutes of the game before Bucknell pieced together the first extended run of the night. Down a point with 7:36 to play, Brown canned a 3-pointer as the trailer in transition to ignite a 17-2 run over the rest of the half.
Champion scored her 999th career point on a runner in the lane, and Higham, who had a terrific first half off the bench, followed a Hope Foster blocked shot with a transition layup to make it eight straight points and a 22-15 Bison lead. Briana McFadden made two free throws to stop Bucknell's momentum temporarily, but Schober swished a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it an eight-point game at 25-17.
Higham again outran the Holy Cross posts for another transition layup to give Bucknell its first double-digit lead with 2:59 left, and Joyce Novacek and Brown finished the half with mid-range jumpers, the latter coming with under two seconds left, to make it a 31-17 lead at intermission.
Bucknell held Holy Cross without a field goal for the final 8:39 of the half. The Crusaders were just 6-for-26 from the floor with nine turnovers, while the Bison were 14-for-35 with an 11-2 assist-turnover ratio and only two fouls in the opening half.
Both teams started slowly in the second half before Holy Cross struck first on an Alyssa May layup 3:28 in. Champion's 3-point play gave Bucknell its first 15-point lead, and gave the senior her 1,000th career point. Another Champion layup and a right-corner 3-pointer from Schober made it 43-26 with 9:36 left.
Holy Cross ratcheted up the defensive pressure and forced five turnovers and a forced shot at the end of the shot clock, resulting in 10 straight points to get the margin back to single digits. Elizabeth Campbell followed her own miss, got fouled and made the free throw. May then scored seven straight, including a 3-pointer from the left wing. Her two free throws made it a seven-point game at 43-36 with 6:02 to play.
Andrea Wright halted Bucknell's 4:02 scoreless drought with a step-back jumper from the baseline, her only field goal of the night, igniting a 7-0 Bison run. Higham slipped inside for a layup, then came up with a big defensive rebound at the other end and drew an over-the-back foul. Champion found open court on the press-break and drained a pull-up jumper in the key to make it 49-36. Higham made 1 of 2 free throws to restore the 14-point halftime margin.
A May layup and a Bethany O'Dell 3-pointer brought Holy Cross within nine again at 50-41, and the Crusaders had a chance to draw even closer but Laura Aloisi missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:18 to play.
Champion did the same at the other end, but Schober hustled from the other side of the lane to grab the offensive rebound. Brown went right back to the line and made both to give the Bison a 52-41 lead with 1:07 left. Champion then rebounded a May miss and dribbled the length of the floor before getting fouled. This time she calmly drained both free throws to make it a commanding 54-41 lead with 52 seconds to play.
A few minutes later Fedorjaka snipped the last piece of net from the rim, and Bucknell's stunning first-round loss to Colgate as the top seed in the 2007 tournament was vanquished.
In one of its best defensive efforts of the season, Bucknell forced 15 turnovers and held Holy Cross to 28.8 percent shooting on the night. The Bison held McFadden, the Patriot League Player of the Year, to two six points on 2-for-12 shooting, 0-for-6 from the arc. The Crusaders managed only four 3-pointers in 21 attempts. Bucknell blocked seven shots, three each from Higham and Hope Foster, who upped her school-record total to 343.