Patriot League Women's Basketball Release - 12.20.11

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Kara Pollinger and Navy will host UMBC Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Kara Pollinger and Navy will host UMBC Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Dec. 20, 2011

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — As the old saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.”

Patriot League Women's Basketball Release - 12.20.11 Get Acrobat Reader

That might be a good way to sum up Colgate’s season-opening losing streak. But the Raiders have put that behind them with two consecutive victories for their first win streak under first-year head coach Nicci Hays Fort. Once the Raiders snapped the slide with a 71-59 win over Wagner Dec. 10, they had to wait eight days to get back on the court to keep the momentum going.

That’s exactly what Colgate did when it posted a 54-44 win at NJIT Sunday afternoon in Newark, N.J. It appears the Raiders are beginning to find their game, and at precisely the right time with League play looming in just a few weeks. Now, as they say, “Good things come in bunches.”

After a seven-day stretch of zero games as teams broke for final exams, there’s a quick spurt of activity the next three days. It begins Tuesday with two contests, as both service academies will be in action. Navy tries to start another win streak when it hosts UMBC at 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall, while Army is on the road for an 8:30 p.m. tip at Pac-12 member Arizona State.

Four games are spread out on Wednesday’s docket. Holy Cross tries to rebound off Sunday’s loss at Boston College when it entertains Bryant at 11:45 a.m. Lafayette returns to action after a 10-day break when it visits St. Francis (N.Y.) at 5 p.m. A pair of games are set for 7 p.m., with American hosting Loyola (Md.) and Bucknell welcoming nationally-ranked Penn State to Lewisburg. The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 16 in both major national polls this week.

Colgate will look to make it three wins in a row when the Raiders host St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies have just one loss on the season and received a vote in this week’s Associated Press Top 25.

Teams will break again for Christmas, where there will be five days with no games. The schedule picks up again Dec. 28, kicking off a stretch of 23 games in eight days.

Patriot League Weekly Awards (12.12-18)

TRICIA OAKES, COLGATE Sr., C, Evergreen, Colo.
11.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 bpg, .417 FG%

MARIAH JONES, COLGATE Fr., G, Silver Spring, Md.
16.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, .467 FG%

17.0 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.0 rpg, .417 3FG%

Patriot League Notebook

The schedule, as usual, has featured ebbs and flows during non-League play, and teams are now entering a quick stretch of games before taking another break for the Christmas holiday. But once the gifts are unwrapped, it’s time to get back to work. The slate features a few holiday tournaments sprinkled in with the usual compliment of non-League games in the days leading up to the New Year. The schedule resumes Dec. 28, starting a very intense stretch where 23 games will be played over the course of eight days. The span will end Jan. 4 before all teams have at least two days off before the start of League play Jan. 7.

Lehigh’s win Dec. 10 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 had also benefitted Lehigh in the second edition of the RPI ratings, which came out last Monday. The Mountain Hawks moved up 72 slots to No. 179 in the RPI, the fourth largest jump in the nation that week. Lehigh sank to 196 in the third RPI ratings released Monday after not having played any games.

Despite not having played a game last week, Lafayette’s Danielle Fiacco remains among the nation’s best shot blockers, according to the latest statistics released by the NCAA Monday. The 6-foot-7 sophomore center maintained her position in second place nationally with 47 total blocks, while her 4.7 blocks-per-game average is third behind Baylor’s Brittney Griner (5.3 bpg) and Missouri’s Christine Flores (4.9). Fiacco will be in action Wednesday when the Leopards visit St. Francis (N.Y.) for a 5 p.m. tip.

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.

Holy Cross boasts a League-best four student-athletes averaging in double figures in points. Alex Smith, who leads the League in assists and is third in steals, scored 17 points Sunday against Boston College to move up to second in the League in scoring (13.5 ppg). Amy Lepley is next averaging 12.1 points per game, while Emily Parker and Brisje Malone both average 10.1 per game to round out the list. A fifth player, Meredith Ward, is just outside of double figures with 8.7 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 two weeks ago for the Mountain Hawks, who ran their win streak to four. Williams scored 16 points in last 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.).

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 Dec. 9 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.

Three Patriot League contests are scheduled to be televised on CBS Sports Network, with two featuring one of the most vaunted rivalry in intercollegiate athletics. Both regular season contests between Army and Navy will be shown on the network, with the Jan. 14 game hailing from Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., and the Feb. 11 contest at Christl Arena at West Point, N.Y. Both games will tip at 12 p.m. CBS Sports Network will also televise the Patriot League championship on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 6 p.m.

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.

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.

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 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.

The Patriot League features one new face on the sidelines in 2011-12, with Nicci Hays Fort entering her first season at Colgate. Entering the season with over a decade of coaching experience, Hays Fort comes to Hamilton, N.Y., after serving as the associate head coach on Doug Bruno’s staff at DePaul. Coincidentally, one of Hays Fort’s last contests coaching the Blue Demons was in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, when DePaul faced off with Navy. The Raiders look to rebound from a 7-22 showing and a 2-12 mark in the League last season, and boast the returns of junior Jhazmine Lynch, the 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, along with senior Tricia Oakes and a pair of freshmen in Mariah Jones and Kelly Reid who are immediately contributing.

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.

Team Notebooks

AMERICAN The Eagles will have their first game in 10 days when they host Loyola (Md.) Wednesday evening at Bender Arena ... American’s captains, senior Lisa Strack and sophomore Alexis Dobbs, are shouldering the bulk of the team’s offense so far ... Strack leads with 11.1 points per game, while Dobbs is second on the club at 10.1 per showing ... The Eagles have three straight at home beginning with Wednesday’s matchup against the Greyhounds, but will be off for another seven days after before hosting Quinnipiac Dec. 28 ... American closes out its three-game homestand Dec. 30 with a 7 p.m. tip against Western Michigan and then rings in the New Year Jan. 2 at George Washington ... After the game against the Colonials, the rest of American’s regular-season schedule will be Patriot League play.

ARMY The Black Knights will look to snap a three-game slide Tuesday night when they tip off at 8:30 p.m. at Arizona State ... Army began the season with five wins in its first six games ... Despite their current slide, the Black Knights are still second in the Patriot League averaging 58.5 points per game, first allowing 51.2 per game and first in scoring margin (+7.3 ppg) ... Jen Hazlett owns the team lead in scoring (12.4 ppg), while Anna Simmers (11.4) and Molly Yardley (10.2) are second and third, respectively ... The team is in a stretch where it plays five of six away from West Point ... After visiting the Sun Devils, Army will resume play 10 days later when it hosts Quinnipiac Dec. 30, then visits Yale New Year’s Day ... After visiting Bryant Jan. 3, the Black Knights open League competition Jan. 7 at Bucknell.

BUCKNELL Rachel Voss scored all of her season-high 13 points in the first half as Bucknell fell 65-45 at Cornell Sunday afternoon ... The Bison shot 43 percent from the floor in the first half but trailed 38-27 at the break after the Big Red hit on nearly 56 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes ... Bucknell cut the deficit to nine on three occasions, the first two on layups from Christina Chukwuedo and the third with 9:17 left when Alyssa Dunn’s two foul shots made it a 47-38 game ... But the Bison could get no closer as Cornell went on a 7-0 run and never looked back ... The Big Red held a 43-33 edge on the glass ... The Bison are next in action Wednesday night when they host Penn State at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion ... Bucknell breaks for a week for Christmas before visiting West Virginia Dec. 28 at 12 p.m. and stays on the road for Dec. 31 tilt at Mount St. Mary’s.

COLGATE After opening the season with 10 straight losses, Colgate has its first win streak of the Nicci Hays Fort era after capturing a 10-point win on the road at NJIT Sunday afternoon ... Colgate was led by senior Tricia Oakes, who logged her fifth career double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman Mariah Jones, who scored a game-high 16 points as the Raiders posted a 54-44 win over the Highlanders in Newark, N.J. ... Freshman Kelly Reid chipped in 10 points with seven boards for the Raiders ... Colgate, which trailed just twice in the game, led 28-18 at halftime but saw its lead disappear in the second half when NJIT opened with a 12-2 run ... Lauryn Kobiela’s trey capped off a 13-3 Colgate run to give the Raiders a 43-33 lead with 7:35 left. Jones’ 3-pointer with just over a minute left gave Colgate its biggest lead of the game at 14 ... The Raiders will host St. Bonaventure Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. and break for Christmas before entertaining Iona Dec. 29 ... Colgate visits Syracuse Dec. 31.

HOLY CROSS Alex Smith paced the Crusaders with 17 points and six assists, but Holy Cross fell back to .500 with a 67-58 loss at Boston College Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum ... Amy Lepley scored nine points in the first half and helped the Crusaders build a 33-29 halftime lead ... The Eagles replied with a 16-5 run to open the second frame to take a 45-38 lead, but Holy Cross rallied to tie the score at 47 with 9:39 remaining ... Boston College put the game away with a late 8-0 run to move ahead 58-50, and the Eagles took a 10-point lead with three minutes left for their biggest advantage of the contest ... Lepley finished with 11 points, while Brisje Malone had 10 and Emily Parker collected a game-high 10 rebounds ... Holy Cross returns home Wednesday for an 11:45 a.m. tip against Bryant before embarking to southern Florida to participate in the Miami Holiday Tournament beginning Dec. 28 ... The Crusaders will take on the host Hurricanes on the first night and either VCU or Morgan State Dec. 29.

LAFAYETTE The Leopards have been idle since a 56-48 loss Dec. 11 at Bryant ... They return to the court Wednesday with a 5 p.m. tip at St. Francis (N.Y.), then won’t hit the floor again until Dec. 28 against Maryland as part of the Terrapin Holiday Classic at College Park, Md. ... Sophomore Danielle Fiacco is just shy of averaging a double-double with 13.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest ... Freshman Emily Homan has started all 10 games for Lafayette and is second on the team averaging 8.7 points per contest ... Homan’s classmate Brya Freeland has started nine games, as has sophomore Maddie Fahan ... Fiacco has 10 starts on the year ... After Lafayette closes out the holiday tournament at Maryland against either Delaware or East Carolina, it will visit Pitt Dec. 31 for a 1 p.m. tip and hosts Columbia Jan. 4 before opening Patriot League play at home Jan. 7 against defending champion Navy.

LEHIGH When the Mountain Hawks return to the floor Dec. 29 at the Christmas City Classic, they will put their four-game win streak on the line ... Lehigh is 4-1 at home and has its next three at Stabler Arena ... The Mountain Hawks open Dec. 29 against Rhode Island and will close the holiday event Dec. 30 against Richmond ... Both games are set for a 7 p.m. tip ... Lehigh will then be off until hosting Holy Cross Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. in the League opener for both ... After missing the first eight games of the season, Emily Gratch is healthy and back in the lineup, having come off the bench in the last four ... Her return has coincided with the Mountain Hawks’ four-game win streak ... Both Gratch and Alexa Williams are averaging 10.8 points per game, while Williams is the only player in the League averaging a double-double with 10.0 boards per contest ... Lehigh owns the League’s best free throw shooting stat so far at 74.7 percent, while Williams is sixth in the League shooting 77.1 percent from the line.

NAVY The Mids have had nine days to prepare for UMBC, which they will host Tuesday at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., at 7 p.m. ... Navy is coming off a 60-50 loss at Howard in its last outing Dec. 11, which snapped a five-game win streak ... Following Tuesday’s game, Navy will be off for Christmas until Dec. 29, when it heads to Bronx, N.Y., for a holiday tournament hosted by Fordham ... Navy will take on the host Rams at 12 p.m., and will play either Boston University or Coppin St. Dec. 30 ... The Mids are second in the League in scoring margin (+5.4), thanks in part to their League-leading 40 percent shooting as a team from the floor ... Navy’s 34 percent shooting on treys is also the League leader thus far ... Sophomores Jade Geif, Audrey Bauer, Alix Membreno and Kara Pollinger have started all 10 games for the Mids, while junior Chey Arvin has made eight starts and senior Erin Edwards two.