Lauren Jackson and the Leopards host Bryant on Sunday.
Nov. 11, 2010
EASTON, Pa. - The Lafayette women's basketball team starts a new era in its 39th campaign, as veteran head coach Dianne Nolan begins her reign on College Hill against the visiting Bryant Bulldogs. The Leopards' season opener will be streamed live on LSN All-Access via GoLeopards.com with Mick Moninghoff and Stacey Cagenello '87 on the call.
The Bryant Bulldogs, who will open their 2010-11 slate at Penn on Friday night, return three starters and six total letterwinners from a squad that went 13-16 last season. Now beginning its third season at the Division I level, Bryant is currently an independent in its probationary period with the Northeast Conference. The Bulldogs will play a full NEC schedule but are not eligible for postseason play - including the conference tournament - until the 2012-13 season. Bryant players are eligible for individual NEC and NCAA weekly and postseason awards. The Bulldogs were selected to finish eighth of 12 teams in the conference's preseason poll. Long Island, the Leopards' next opponent (Nov. 17), was chosen to win the NEC by the conference's head coaches
Elizabeth Virgin led all players with 13 points, while LaKeisha Wright added 12, but the Leopards lost at Bryant, 56-47, on Nov. 21, 2009 in Smithfield, R.I. Lafayette collected only 24 rebounds to the Bulldogs' 42. Bryant benefited from a balanced attack, as nine different players scored en route to a 19-6 edge in bench production. The Leopards, who went into halftime trailing by six points, 30-24, trimmed the lead to a single basket at 43-41 with 4:23 left, but managed just six points the rest of the way as Bryant pulled away for a nine-point win. Siamone Bennett led the Bulldogs with 10 points and a game-best eight rebounds.
FOR THE RECORD
The Leopards are 20-18 all-time in season openers and 23-15 in home openers. Lafayette's home and season opener are one in the same for the second straight season and the 15th campaign ever. The Leopards have never played on Nov. 14, which marks one of the earliest start dates ever for Lafayette women's basketball. The 2009-10 campaign began on Nov. 13 in Easton against St. Peters, and the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons both started on Nov. 12; the former was a 63-46 home victory over Wagner while the latter was a loss at St. Francis (N.Y.).
A STRONG FOUNDATION
The Leopards will be among the most experienced teams in the Patriot League, as they return their top six scorers and top three rebounders from last season. Aside from Army, which did not lose anybody from last season's roster, Bucknell is the only other Patriot squad to return its three best on the boards from the 2009-10 campaign.
Depending on how the matchups fall at the Hawk Classic on Dec. 28-29, nearly one-third of Lafayette's schedule could be comprised of the teams that advanced to the postseason in 2009-10, including a trio of defending conference champions. Lafayette challenged six of the following seven teams last season as well, with St. Joseph's as the lone exception.
Liberty (Nov. 20) - Big South Champion, NCAA First Round
Fairfield (Nov. 28) - WBI Second Round
St. Bonaventure (Dec. 1) - WNIT Second Round
Princeton (Dec. 13) - Ivy League Champion, NCAA First Round
St. Joseph's (Dec. 29 - possible opponent) - WNIT First Round
Lehigh (Jan. 22, Feb. 19) - Patriot League Champion, NCAA First Round
American (Jan. 29, Feb. 26) - WNIT First Round
Nine of Lafayette's 14 non-conference games will feature repeat opponents from the 2009-10 season. Should the Leopards meet New Hampshire on day two of the St. Joseph's Hawk Classic, the Wildcats will be Lafayette's only first-time opponent of the season.
LaKeisha Wright, who was a 2007-08 Patriot League All-Rookie Team and 2008-09 All-Tournament Team honoree, added to her impressive résumé in 2009-10 as a member of the All-Patriot League Second Team. Wright averaged a team-best 11.6 points per game in Patriot League contests. Overall, she paced the Leopards with 11.2 points per game, 31.0 minutes per game and a .454 field-goal percentage while also ranking second on the squad with 4.6 rebounds per contest.
AND AS A RESULT...
Wright enters her senior campaign just 44 points shy of eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for her career. She would be the 14th Leopard to reach the milestone. Wright needs 200 points to break into the all-time top 10.
In their six wins last season, the Leopards allowed an average of just 49.8 points per contest. Lafayette's best defensive effort came on Jan. 9, as the Maroon and White held Holy Cross to 39 points, the fewest scored by the Crusaders in 2009-10 and the fewest scored by a Lafayette opponent since Fordham mustered just 39 tallies on Jan. 18, 1995.
Elizabeth Virgin finished 2009-10 with 17 blocked shots to claim sole possession of sixth place on the Leopards' career list. Virgin, who has 36 career rejections, would finish her career in second place with 19 blocks in her senior season. With 180 blocks from 1977-81, Lenora Johnson '81 has a firm grasp on the all-time top spot. As a team, Lafayette's 82 blocked shots last season were the second most in program history.
Lauren Jackson shot a perfect 15-for-15 from the free throw line in the Leopards' 62-56 win at Penn on Dec. 2. Jackson matched the Lafayette record for made free throws in a game and set the program mark for the most made free throws without a miss. She was four conversions from the charity stripe shy of the Patriot League single-game record of 19-for-19 held by Navy's Erica Hayes.
The Leopards made 59 three-pointers in 2009-10 to tie the mark for the 10th-most in program history. Lafayette's last eight seasons are all among the top-10 in three-point proficiency, led by a record 138 treys in 2005-06.
THE RANK(ED) AND FILE
The Leopards challenged No. 25 James Madison at the Dukes' home invitational on Dec. 29, 2009, marking the second consecutive season that Lafayette challenged a nationally-ranked foe. In 2008-09, the Leopards traveled to No. 14 Rutgers, the first time the program had faced a ranked team since the 1990-91 season when Lafayette took on No. 1 Virginia at the Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville, Va.
UP TO THE CHALLENGE
Melissa Downey stepped up her game against nationally-ranked James Madison. She chipped in a then career-high 10 points and dished out a personal-best eight assists against the Dukes.
LaKeisha Wright was responsible for both of the Leopards' double-doubles in 2009-10. She finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds against UNC Asheville and posted 10 points and 10 boards just two games later in the league win at Holy Cross.
STEP ONE COMPLETE
For the first time since the 2006-07 campaign, the Leopards opened Patriot League play with a win last season when they defeated Holy Cross, 43-39.
TWO AT A TIME
For the first time in 47 games, Lafayette failed to make a three-pointer against Navy on Jan. 16, 2010. The 0-for-4 showing from beyond the arc didn't hinder the Leopards, however, as the Maroon and White came out on top of a 46-43 decision.
DOING IT ALL
In a game at Navy on Feb. 13, 2010, LaKeisha Wright became the first Leopard to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists in a single game since Vanessa Van De Venter '08 on Feb. 3, 2007. Wright had a 13-point, six-rebound and four-assist performance against the Mids.
BACK IN THE WIN COLUMN
Lafayette's overtime win against Army last season snapped a 19-game slide against the Black Knights that dated back to the 2000-01 season.
LIGHTNING DOESN'T STRIKE TWICE
The Leopards, who downed American in the 2008-09 Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals en route to a run to the championship game, were unable to repeat that feat in 2009-10. Once again seeded No. 7 against the No. 2 Eagles, Lafayette saw its season end in the PL Quarterfinals with a 77-49 defeat.
According to the latest NCAA report of Division I institutions, Lafayette College ranks third in the nation in student-athlete graduation success rate (GSR). The Leopards post an impressive 97% GSR, ranking well above the national GSR for Division I student-athletes of 79%. Fourteen of the Leopards' 20 intercollegiate sports included in the study - including women's basketball - boast a 100% GSR, with every Leopards' program registering above the Division I average.
This season, 10 Lafayette regular season women's basketball contests - including all seven Patriot League home games - will be broadcast regionally to more than 10 million viewers on RCN-4, RCN-8 and WBPH-60. Additionally, RCN and WBPH will carry all of the Leopards' postseason home games. As an element of Lafayette's multimedia agreement with CBS College Sports, every televised game - as well as the three non-televised home contests - will be streamed live on the Internet and available worldwide through LSN All-Access on GoLeopards.com.
NO SLEEP 'TIL...
Lafayette will be back in action on Nov. 17, traveling to Brooklyn, N.Y. to meet Long Island. Tip-off between the Leopards and Blackbirds, who are the preseason favorite in the Northeast Conference, is slated for 5 p.m. The Maroon and White will also challenge defending Big South champion Liberty on Nov. 20 in Lynchburg, Va. before returning to Easton for a Nov. 23 contest against St. Francis (N.Y.).