Lafayette's Danielle Fiacco remains one of the nation's best in shot blocking this season.
Dec. 13, 2011
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — After combining for seven games over the weekend, the eight Patriot League teams enter the first extended idle period of December as the institutions break for final exams and tie a final ribbon on the fall semester. With four straight victories, Lehigh has taken over the position as the League’s hottest team after capturing a 68-54 victory over Robert Morris Saturday afternoon. The Mountain Hawks have won 17 straight in the month of December and made a significant upward jump in the latest RPI ratings released Monday.
The team the Mountain Hawks supplanted was Navy, which saw its five-game win streak snapped in a 60-50 loss at Howard Sunday afternoon. The Mids closed out a busy stretch with their third game in five days, but they wrapped up their five-game homestand Friday night with a 65-52 victory over two-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton. The Tigers had received votes in both major national polls and were ranked No. 4 in the CollegeInsider.com Women’s Mid-Major Top 25 last week.
In all, there are five League teams heading into this week’s break on a high note. Colgate earned its first win under first-year head coach Nicci Hays Fort with a 71-59 decision Saturday over Wagner, while American’s stout defense late held back Troy in a 55-45 win on the road Sunday. The Eagles are now a perfect 5-0 away from Bender Arena this season.
Three teams will hit the court when play resumes Sunday. Bucknell, which snapped an eight-game losing streak in its last outing, looks to make it two wins in a row when it visits Cornell at 1 p.m. Two contests are set for 2 p.m., with Colgate at NJIT and Holy Cross visiting Boston College.
Nobody is in action Monday, and the schedule continues Tuesday with Navy home for UMBC and Army going west to visit Arizona State.
Patriot League Weekly Awards (12.5-11)
ANACONDA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ALEX SMITH, HOLY CROSS So., G, Delran, N.J.
20.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 spg, .538 FG%, .455 3FG%
ANACONDA ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
BRYA FREELAND, LAFAYETTE Fr., G, Pasadena, Md.
13.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, .556 FG%, .500 3FG%
HONORABLE MENTION PERFORMANCES LAST WEEK
ALEXA WILLIAMS, LEHIGH Sr., F, Warren, Ohio
11.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg, .571 FG%, .792 FT%
LINDSAY HORBATUCK, BUCKNELL Jr., F, Avon, Conn.
12.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg, .667 FG%, .667 FT%
KELLY REID, COLGATE Fr., F, Richmond Hill, Ga.
13.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, .500 FG%
ALIX MEMBRENO, NAVY So., G, Loxahatchee, Fla.
13.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, .586 FG%, .375 3FG%
Patriot League Notebook
MOVIN’ ON UP
Lehigh’s win Saturday over Robert Morris was the Mountain Hawks’ fourth in a row and extended their win streak to 17 straight in the month of December dating back to the 2009-10 season. The latest round of victories has also benefitted Lehigh in the second edition of the RPI ratings, which came out Monday. The Mountain Hawks moved up 72 slots to No. 179 in the RPI, the fourth largest jump in the nation this week. Boston University was tops after rocketing up 132 slots, while Harvard and UNC Wilmington tied for second best by moving up 74 positions.
GOING TOE TO TOE
Lafayette sophomore center Danielle Fiacco remains engaged in a battle with Baylor’s Brittney Griner over the national lead in blocks. The 6-foot-7 Fiacco briefly overtook Griner for the top spot in the NCAA after a five-block showing against Saint Joseph’s but sits second again this week after grabbing two more rejections Sunday at Bryant. With 118 career rejections, Fiacco is 11th all-time in League history and third in Lafayette annals. Her 47 total blocks are second in the country, while her average of 4.7 per game is third.
HERKY JERKY THE REST OF THE MONTH
As is tradition this time of the year, the schedule goes through its ebbs and flows during the final two weeks of December, with some of those valleys seeming to take a while. After three games Sunday, the Patriot League schedule is dark for seven days and picks up again next Sunday with three contests. There are no games Monday, followed by a pair on Tuesday. Final exams are the culprit this week, while the Christmas holiday will provide a six-day break at the end of next week.
THE COUNTDOWN IS ON
Believe it or not, but the non-League leg of the schedule is quickly coming to a close, and we are less than a month away before the first round of Patriot League play begins Saturday, Jan. 7. It seems like a long way off in the future, but once the holidays pass by, the most important part of the season will be ready to begin. The eight teams will begin a double round-robin schedule with the first day’s games all at different times. Lehigh hosts Holy Cross at 2 p.m., Navy heads to Lafayette for a 3 p.m. tipoff, Colgate entertains American for a 4 p.m. start and Army visits Bucknell at 7 p.m.
BACK ON THE WINNING TRACK
After some narrow losses and bad luck, Bucknell ended its eight-game losing streak with a stalwart defensive effort in a 49-39 victory Wednesday night over Fordham. The Bison held the Rams to 26 percent from the floor and just 1 of 21 on 3-point attempts, while Lindsay Horbatuck led the Bucknell effort with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Horbatuck has moved up to third in the League in rebounding (8.3 rpg), while the Bison own the League’s fourth-best rebounding margin (+3.4).
CRUSADERS RIDING OFFENSIVE BALANCE
Holy Cross boasts a League-best four student-athletes averaging in double figures in points. Alex Smith, who ranks in the League’s top five in assists and steals, is the Crusaders’ leading scorer with 13.1 points per game, which places her third in the League. Amy Lepley is next averaging 12.2 points per game, while Emily Parker (10.6 ppg) and Brisje Malone (10.1) round out the list of four. A fifth player, Meredith Ward, is just outside of double figures with 9.2 points per game.
Lehigh senior Alexa Williams is the only Patriot Leaguer averaging a double-double thus far this season. The native of Warren, Ohio, had three strong showings last week for the Mountain Hawks, who ran their win streak to four. Williams scored 16 points in Saturday’s 68-54 win over Robert Morris to send Lehigh into the break for finals and the holidays riding high. She sits ninth in the League averaging 10.8 points per game while sitting first in rebounding at 10.0 per contest. Just behind her in the boards category is Lafayette’s Danielle Fiacco, who is ripping down rebounds at a clip of 9.9 per game.
Bill Gibbons became the second head coach in the Patriot League to reach a significant victory milestone this season when Holy Cross defeated New Hampshire 61-50 earlier this season. It was the 500th win of his career, which is now in its 27th season and has spent its entire duration on the Crusader sidelines. Gibbons joins Lafayette’s Dianne Nolan as the only two League coaches with at least 500 career wins. Earlier this season Army’s Dave Magarity collected his 400th coaching victory when Army defeated St. Francis (N.Y.). Gibbons moved to 501 career wins after Wednesday’s 70-68 decision against Northeastern.
NEXT UP ON THE MILESTONE PARADE
With two victory plateaus having been reached, there’s now a third on the way that seems likely this season. Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, who is in her fourth season in Annapolis, has 294 career victories after the Mids capped off a five-game win streak with an impressive 65-52 win over Princeton Friday at Alumni Hall. The Tigers, who are the two-time defending Ivy League champions, were ranked No. 4 in last week’s RPI. The Mids are now 2-1 against teams in the RPI Top 100.
The Patriot League features two of the nation’s top 15 scoring defenses, and it probably comes as no surprise that the two representatives are the service academies. Army ranks 19th in the country in scoring defense as of Monday, allowing just 51.2 points per game. Army’s rival Navy is just seven slots back at No. 26 averaging 51.6 points allowed so far. The Black Knights and Mids have boasted two of the stingiest scoring defenses in the League over the last several seasons. Navy held Princeton to 52 points Wednesday night, its lowest output of the campaign.
ZEHNER’S HISTORIC FEAT
It was bound to happen at some point, and Bucknell freshman Amy Zehner finally accomplished it earlier this season when she was named to both the Patriot League Anaconda Player and Rookie of the Week awards after averaging 22.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists per game for the Bison. Her 25-point outburst against Youngstown State was the largest point total by a Patriot Leaguer this season, and she became the eighth freshman in Bucknell history to record back-to-back games of at least 20 points when she scored 20 at Buffalo.
MAGARITY REACHES 400 PLATEAU
Jen Hazlett scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead Army to its 59-43 win at St. Francis (N.Y.) Nov. 16, delivering head coach Dave Magarity the 400th victory of his career, which has spanned three decades and now approaches 100 wins at West Point. Army led by five at the half after shooting 57 percent from the floor, and pulled away in the second half as the team collected 21 bucks and 17 assists. Magarity is now the third coach in the League with at least 400 career victories, joining Lafayette’s Dianne Nolan and Bill Gibbons of Holy Cross.
AMERICAN NAMED PRESEASON FAVORITE
With 94 points and 11 first-place votes, American topped the 2011-12 Patriot League Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll. The Eagles will aim to capture their first League crown in program history after reaching the title game in each of the last two seasons. American finished ahead of second-place Lehigh, which totaled 83 points and three first-place votes. Defending League champion Navy took third with 74 points and the last two remaining first-place ballots. Bucknell finished fourth in the poll, the same position in which the Bison ended the regular season a year ago. They collected 58 points, followed by Holy Cross in fifth with 52. Rounding out the poll were Lafayette (38 points), Army (26) and Colgate (23).
NAVY’S GEIF NAMED PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Navy’s Jade Geif got better and better as the 2010-11 season went on, and the hardware began adding up quickly. She was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year at the end of the regular season and added Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after helping lead the Midshipmen to their first League crown in program history. Geif was recognized again by the League’s eight head coaches and women’s basketball sports information directors with the Preseason Player of the Year honor and a spot on the Preseason All-League team. In nearly 30 minutes per game a season ago, Geif was second in the League averaging 7.9 rebounds per game and is Navy’s top returning scorer (9.6 ppg). Geif became the first player named Rookie of the Year and Tournament MVP in the same season since Bethany O’Dell of Holy Cross in 2007.
Ten of the 11 players named First- or Second-Team All-Patriot League a year ago graduated in the spring. The one who remains is American senior Lisa Strack, who was named to the Preseason All-League Team last month and is expected to contribute mightily to the Eagles this season. One of three seniors named to the Preseason All-League squad, Strack is the League’s second-highest returning scorer after averaging 11.6 points per game last season. She was also her team’s best distributor, averaging 3.4 assists per game, placing her fourth in the League.
AMERICAN came off a seven-day layoff by closing its game on a 13-3 run and holding its opponent scoreless for nearly seven minutes in a 55-45 win at Troy Sunday afternoon ... With the win, the Eagles improve to a perfect 5-0 away from Bender Arena this season ... Down 37-31 with 11:32 on the clock, American scored 24 of the game’s last 32 points, with the turnaround starting on a three-point play from Stephanie Anya ... Alexis Dobbs scored a team-high 11 points, while Lisa Strack added 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals ... Anya finished with nine points off the bench ... The Eagles embark on another long layoff, this time 10 days before returning to the court Dec. 21 ... American will host Loyola (Md.) at 7 p.m. and then take another seven days off before welcoming Quinnipiac to Bender Arena Dec. 28 ... The Eagles will play their next three at home, where they are 1-4 on the season.
ARMY dropped its third straight and let a 10-point lead slip away in a 70-60 loss to Penn inside the historic Palestra in Philadelphia on Saturday ... Anna Simmers scored 18 points to lead the Black Knights, who built their double-digit lead in the first half but saw the Quakers narrow it to 31-29 at halftime ... Penn led 42-40 at the 14-minute mark and went on a 13-2 run to take a 55-42 lead with 6:26 on the clock ... Army pulled within four with under two minutes remaining, but Penn went 4 of 4 on foul shots in their next two possessions to seal the win ... Molly Yardley scored 13 points for Army, which outrebounded the Quakers 40-34 but shot just 34 percent from the floor ... The Black Knights have just two more games the rest of 2011, with their next contest coming Dec. 20 with a tip at Arizona State ... Army is back inside Christl Arena Dec. 30 to host Quinnipiac before returning to the road New Year’s Day to visit Yale.
BUCKNELL Lindsay Horbatuck logged a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds as Bucknell snapped its eight-game losing streak with a 49-39 victory over Fordham at Sojka Pavilion last Tuesday night ... The Bison led 19-14 at halftime and built the advantage to 12 in the first 5:06 of the second half ... The Rams narrowed Bucknell’s lead to four at the halfway mark, but an Amy Zehner jumper and a three-point play from Christina Chukwuedo built the lead back to nine and the Bison were in front by at least seven the rest of the way ... The Bucknell defense held Fordham to just 16 of 61 from the field, including 1 of 21 on 3-pointers ... Bucknell is idle until Dec. 18 when it visits Cornell ... The Bison return home Dec. 21 to host Penn State ... Bucknell heads to Morgantown to battle BIG EAST opponent West Virginia Dec. 28 and visits Mount St. Mary’s Dec. 31 to close out 2011.
COLGATE Freshman Kelly Reid led the way with a career-high 13 points as Colgate secured the first victory of the Nicci Hays Fort era with a 71-59 decision over Wagner Saturday evening in Hamilton, N.Y. ... It was a completely balanced effort from the Raiders, who had five players reach double figures in scoring ... Lauryn Kobiela tied Reid for the team lead with 13 points, while Kelly Korkowski dropped in 12 and Candice Green and Mariah Jones had 11 apiece ... The Raiders led 33-21 at the half before Wagner rallied for a 43-42 lead with 11:38 on the clock ... Reid’s three-point play capped off a 9-0 Colgate run to put the Raiders up 51-43 and they never looked back ... Colgate has four games remaining in the calendar year and will split them evenly between home and away ... After visiting NJIT Sunday afternoon, the Raiders will host St. Bonaventure Dec. 22 and break for Christmas before entertaining Iona Dec. 29 ... Colgate visits Syracuse Dec. 31.
HOLY CROSS Emily Parker’s jumper with 30 seconds remaining was the difference as Holy Cross hung on for a 70-68 win over visiting Northeastern Wednesday night at the Hart Center in Worcester ... Parker finished the game with 13 points and six rebounds, while Alex Smith scored a game-high 20 points, dished five assists and sank five 3-pointers ... In a game that saw 14 lead changes and seven ties, the Huskies took a 65-62 lead with 3:56 to go ... A Meredith Ward bucket and a foul shot from Parker put the Crusaders up 67-66, but Northeastern regained the lead on its next possession ... That set up Parker’s jumper in the final minute, and the freshman added a free throw later on to complete the final score ... Holy Cross is off until it visits Boston College Dec. 18 ... The Crusaders return home to host Bryant Dec. 21, then venture south after Christmas to participate in the Miami Holiday Tournament starting Dec. 28 ... Holy Cross will take on the host Hurricanes and then either VCU or Morgan State.
LAFAYETTE Emily Homan scored 11 points and just barely missed the double-double with nine rebounds as Lafayette fell 56-48 at Bryant Sunday afternoon ... Homan picked up a pair of blocks, as did sophomore Danielle Fiacco, who scored nine points with eight boards ... The Leopards committed 27 turnovers in the contest, with the Bulldogs turning those into 24 points ... Lafayette owned a 26-22 lead at halftime, but Bryant opened the second frame on a 9-0 spurt ... Brya Freeland’s layup tied the game at 39 with 6:39 to go, but the Leopards were not able to take a second-half lead, and Bryant used a 12-3 run to take a 51-42 lead with just under a minute to go ... Freeland’s game-high 21 points against Saint Joseph’s mark the third 20-point game for a Leopard this season and the most points scored by a Lafayette freshman since Vanessa Van De Venter dropped 23 against Texas-Pan American on Dec. 29, 2004 ... After a nine-day break from the hardwood to focus on final exams, the Leopards’ five-game road swing continues on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at St. Francis (N.Y.) ... Tip off from Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., is slated for 7 p.m. and will feature a live audio broadcast on GoLeopards.com.
LEHIGH pulled back to the .500 mark for the first time this season with a 68-54 victory over visiting Robert Morris at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa., Saturday ... Senior Alexa Williams scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, while classmate Emily Gratch poured in 13 points with eight boards ... Williams was only 2 of 4 from the field and did most of her damage from the foul line, where she converted 12 of 14 attempts ... Lehigh’s defense held Robert Morris to just 21 of 75 (28 percent) from the floor, including 6 of 33 from beyond the arc ... Katie O’Reilly joined Williams and Gratch in double figures with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists ... The Mountain Hawks are off until hosting the annual Christmas City Classic beginning Dec. 29 against Rhode Island ... Lehigh will face Richmond Dec. 30.
NAVY In the biggest victory of the season for any Patriot League team, defending Patriot League champion Navy won its fifth consecutive game and scored 12 of the game’s last 14 points in a 65-52 victory over two-time defending Ivy League title winner Princeton Friday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis ... Jade Geif scored a game-high 18 points and led four Mids who reached double figures ... Alix Membreno pitched in 14 points, while Audrey Bauer narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds ... Kara Pollinger pitched in 11 points, four boards and three assists ... Princeton had come out of the break with a 10-3 run to take a 42-37 lead four minutes in, but an 8-1 reply by the Mids put them back up 45-43 ... The Mids shot 50 percent (14 of 28) from the floor in the first half and took a slim 34-32 lead into halftime ... Navy finished the game with a 37-26 edge in rebounds and hit 7 of 14 3-pointers ... Playing its third game in five days, Navy received 11 points apiece from Bauer and Membreno but fell 60-50 at Howard Sunday afternoon, snapping a five-game win streak ... After opening the game on a 17-6 run, Navy trailed the Bison 27-24 at halftime after Howard scored 21 of the final 28 points in the first half ... Howard opened the second frame with nine straight points as part of a 21-4 run to take a 46-28 lead with 12:30 to go ... The Mids would not get any closer than 10 points the rest of the game ... Navy is off until hosting UMBC Tuesday, Dec. 20.