Bucknell Women's Basketball Makes 2012-13 Debut at Xavier on Saturday
Nov. 7, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - It's a weekend of firsts for Bucknell women's basketball. The Bison hit the road for their season opener, taking on Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio, at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game marks Aaron Roussell's debut as head coach at Bucknell after he spent eight years working his way to a 161-50 record at the University of Chicago. It also marks the first meeting between the Bison and the Musketeers since 1994.
Live coverage of Saturday's game can be heard on the radio at WVBU 90.5 FM and online at SportsJuice.com with newcomer Danny Will doing the play-by-play duties. Free streaming video and live stats on GameTracker are also available at GOXAVIER.com.
Below is an in-depth look at Bucknell's women's basketball's upcoming season.
It's a mix of the old and the new for Bucknell women's basketball in 2012-13 as all but two letterwinners return but three of four coaches, including Aaron Roussell at the helm, are new to the Bison sidelines. That makes for an interesting combination of a fresh, new style of play with experienced leadership that Bucknell hopes will be a winning recipe for success in the upcoming year.
Bucknell has 11 letterwinners and four starters back from last season. Among them is a core group of seniors in Lindsay Horbatuck, Alyssa Dunn, Rachel Voss, Felicia Mgbada and Ashley Baxter as well as junior Shelby Romine. Romine and Horbatuck will share the team captain duties for a second consecutive campaign.
Experience - the seven veterans have 446 career games between them - is undoubtedly a highlight for the Bison. That intangible not only provides a boost for Bucknell's trio of incoming freshmen but also for Roussell and the rest of his coaching staff.
"It definitely helps in my transition as a new coach into this league," said Roussell, who was named Bucknell's ninth head coach last April. "Almost more than the experience is just the leadership that they bring. Every one of those kids comes to practice and does everything right. Not that they know everything right now, but they work hard and are constantly striving to get better. I think that's all you can ask for as a coach. You want players out there that buy in and want to get better. From day one, I've not questioned for a second any of the buy-in from any of the kids. That's a sign of strong leadership from the upperclassmen. They have everybody on the same page and everybody sharing in that desire to improve."
On the court, Bucknell's personnel opens the door for quick transition play and diverse looks to keep defenses on their toes. The Bison hope to use Romine's ability to distribute the ball and Dunn's speed to get some easy baskets in the open floor. Well-rounded play from the team's backcourt players, many of whom have solid mid-range jumpers and aren't afraid to put the ball on the floor, highlights the list of the team's strengths in preseason practice.
"A huge positive is the depth of our post position right now. They're all very versatile players," said Roussell. "Something that people are going to see in those post players is their ability to play away from the basket this year. That gives us a whole new dimension to our offense when we can use those kids to stretch a defense. That's only going to help open up our offense a little bit more."
Bucknell had its offensive difficulties last year, many of them stemming from high turnover numbers and a lack of depth at the point guard position. The Bison brought in three guards in their freshman class in Tyler Craig, Sheaira Jones and Claire Maree O'Bryan, and protecting the ball remains a point of emphasis to make the most of their offensive opportunities.
"I think it wouldn't take looking too far into last season's statistics to see that we had trouble taking care of the basketball. I still think that's been a little bit of a struggle so far this preseason," admitted Roussell while staying optimistic about the progress already made in that department. "We're learning a new offense, we're learning some new things. I think we've had some very sharp moments and very good moments when we put together some exciting clips of basketball just in our practices, but I think to get to be consistent, we need to give ourselves more opportunities to put the ball in the basket."
The only people who should have any complaints about that game plan would be Bucknell's opponents. The Bison kick off their 2012-13 season on Nov. 10 with a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, the hometown of Dunn, Voss and Jones, to take on 2011 NCAA Tournament team Xavier. Roussell and his team will get their first taste of Patriot League action on Jan. 12, 2013 with a road game at Army.
"Lindsay is just a complete workhorse," praised Roussell. "She's not a fun kid to box out and she's not a fun kid to defend. You've got to come ready to work if you're assigned to guard her on any given night. She's a bruiser and she will work harder than anyone I've seen down in the low blocks."
Horbatuck has been among the team's top three in rebounding average in each of her first three seasons with the Orange and Blue, and last year moved into the No. 3 slot in scoring (7.5 ppg) as well. She also enters the season with more double-doubles than any other current Bison, having recorded nine, including seven in 2011-12 alone.
After starting her career as a guard, Voss moved to the post unit full time last season. With their size and skill sets, she and Mgbada will continue to provide tricky matchups for oppositions. Voss has battled a host of knee injuries over the years, but the senior has remained remarkably consistent during that time, averaging 6.0 points as both a freshman and sophomore and 7.9 last year as a junior. Her rebounding average improved to 4.3 last year as well to prove that her transition to the post wasn't just a wayward experiment. At the same time, however, Voss was also .375 (12-for-32) from behind the 3-point arc.
"There aren't a whole lot of post players out there who can shoot the basketball the way she does," Roussell said of Voss. "She might be a little bit undersized, but she is crafty and finishes very, very well."
"Felicia is a very scary matchup for anybody in this league," Roussell continued. "She's somebody who can play inside and outside. Felicia has a first step that can leave a defender just sitting there. At 6-2 to be able to put the ball on the floor and finish the way that she is does is a nice luxury to have as a coach."
Bison fans also know Mgbada for her prowess on the defensive end of the court. In her three seasons, the senior has moved her way into 10th on the program's all-time blocks list and last year was seventh with 39 single-season rejections. With her long reach, Mgbada is also traditionally among the team's leaders in steals and tied Voss for first in the category with 35 a year ago.
Coming off the bench in 2011-12 were a trio of current sophomores in Audrey Dotson, Micki Impellizeri and Jen Heider. Dotson led Bucknell's rookies in rebounding and steals, while Impellizeri was the cohort's leader in scoring, blocked shots and assists.
"Audrey is a very crafty finisher around the basket," said Roussell. "She's going to put some points up on the board this year just because she knows how to put the ball in the basket around the hoop. She's developed a very good mid-range jump shot and is a very dangerous shooter at the arc if people are going to give her that opportunity."
Dotson had the best game of her career during non-conference play, totaling 10 points and eight rebounds at Buffalo before being slowed slightly by a hand injury.
Impellizeri can be likened to Mgbada in that her height and wingspan make her well-suited to play close to the basket, but her skills make her a threat on the perimeter as well. Her 12 blocks ranked third on the team to Mgbada and Voss despite playing fewer than nine minutes per game compared to 22-plus per game for her teammates.
"In some ways Micki's a 6-3 guard, and I think that's something we'll be able to utilize in this offense and really allow her some space to put the ball on the floor," said Roussell. "She's also somebody you can't leave open because she can knock down a shot all the way to the arc."
Heider saw limited playing time in her rookie campaign, but the sophomore's size and strength in the point and her accurate shot from the outside have always made her noteworthy off the bench.
"In the half court, she's tough to move at the basket. She has very good post moves and is also a deadly shooter from the arc," praised Roussell. "She's probably one of our three best shooters right now."
"As a point guard, I feel comfortable with the ball in her hands to make good decisions," said Roussell. "She can get other people great shots, but she also can score herself. That's something that's going to be fun to coach. I don't know that I've had a scoring point guard like Shelby. She's a fun player to watch with the ball in her hands."
Romine enters the season physically stronger and faster than she has been in years past, a combination that should help her as she looks to become Bucknell's 20th player to 1,000 points. With 58 career games under her belt, Romine begins her junior campaign with 679 points and an 11.7 scoring average.
The only Bison guard with more gameday experience than Romine is Dunn, and with that experience has come improved numbers. The senior upped her averages in scoring, assists, steals, rebounds and free throw and field goal shooting from her sophomore to junior seasons. Much of that improvement came from her ability to get points on the run, something Roussell expects to continue into the new season.
"Her speed in the open floor is something that's really going to get us some easy baskets this year," said the Bison head coach. "I think this is going to be a good offense for her because it allows her to use that speed, not only in the open floor, but in the half court attacking the basket as well."
Dunn has spent much of her career as a solid contributor off the bench, a role that also has fit Katherine Harris and Baxter well. Harris was thrown into some big-time situations last year and the reserve made the most of her opportunities. With her smart play, she should continue to get those chances in her sophomore season.
"She is already at that point after 10 practices where she's directing traffic and telling people what to do," said Roussell. "I feel like we're always in control when she's out there. She can get people into the right spots. She's just a solid, heady point guard."
New to the group are freshmen Craig, Jones and O'Bryan. Ohio natives Jones and Craig bring a hybrid style of play with their games, while Australian O'Bryan shines with her competitive play. The Bison will look to Jones and O'Bryan especially to make big impacts early in their Bucknell careers.
"Sheaira can shoot the basketball very well but can also finish at the basket," said Roussell. "If she continues to advance, she's going to be a complete basketball player and she is showing signs of doing that even right now.
"Claire Maree is one of the toughest kids you'll ever get to watch," Roussell continued of O'Bryan, who played a season at The Hill School nearby. "She's a true competitor and I'm excited to see her potential. It's cliché, but she really gets better every single practice. She's going to be fun to coach and fun to watch." Craig is expected to fill more of a combo role, playing at both point and shooting guard in her debut season. "She's a very smart player and gets other players quality shots on a regular basis," praised Roussell.