By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG - The Lafayette women’s basketball team had one of those nights in the first half Wednesday night against Bucknell.
The Leopards missed just four of their first 15 shots at Sojka Pavilion, rolling up a double-digit lead with eight minutes left in the opening half.
However with a 13-point deficit staring it in the face at halftime, Bucknell knew a Lafayette team shooting 36 percent overall and just 21 percent from behind the arc for the season probably wouldn’t keep that up with some better Bison defensive effort.
“I think we tried to focus on ourselves and get back to basics especially on the defensive end in the second half,” junior forward Audrey Dotson said.
It took most of the second half, but the Bison finally took their only lead of the game on Tyler Craig’s fast break layup with 1:34 left in the game and Dotson grabbed a huge defensive rebound with two seconds left, nailing both foul shots, Bucknell claimed a 75-72 Patriot League win over the Leopards.
“We never felt like we were out of the game, not at all,” Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said. “I told the girls it would be a game with five or six minutes left.”
Dotson finished with 24 points and nine rebounds while Shelby Romine added 15 points, 11 boards in the second half and seven assists for the Bison (7-6 overall, 2-1 PL).
Bucknell trailed by 10 points with eight minutes left in the game, but Dotson scored eight consecutive points to help the Bison rally within 68-65 with 5:49 left.
The Leopards pushed their lead back to seven on back-to-back buckets by Emily Homan with 4:09 left, but the Bison defense — sparked by Craig off then bench — stiffened holding Lafayette scoreless the rest of the game.
“We had to calm down as a staff and understand they aren’t going hit 70 percent of her shots all game,” Roussell said. “You have sprint out and have a harder close out on the shooters. We weren’t exactly all over those kids on some of those missed shots (in the second half), but I think our close outs were much better and made them much tougher shots.”
Katherine Harris knocked down a big 3-pointer for Bucknell to cut it to four with four minutes left, before Romine knocked down two foul shots to cut the lead to 72-70 with 2:43 left in the game.
After Dotson made one of two foul shots with 1:58 left, Craig got her hand in a passing lane, picked up the loose ball. She got the ball back from Romine on the fast break to give Bucknell its first lead at 73-72 with 1:34 left.
“When I get my chance I have to work hard,” Craig said. “Last night, it’s funny, I watched (Ohio State point guard) Aaron Craft play and he really inspired me with his defense and his effort.”
“(Tyler’s) an energy kid, but she’s dealt with injuries and illness (early in the season). She’s been playing like this in practice for the last four weeks and got herself back in the rotation,” Roussell said. “She’s not going to come off the bench and score 12, but she’s going to find a way to help us make a run.”
The Bison couldn’t clinch the win as Lafayette held for the last shot after an offensive rebound by 6-foot-8 center Danielle Fiacco with 30 seconds left. The Leopards tried to get the ball inside to Fiacco, but Linnel Macklin was forced into a runner with time ticking down by the Bison defense. After Dotson’s defensive rebound and foul shots, Madeline Fahan got a good look at a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot went off the front rim.
Homan had 15 points to lead Lafayette, while Annette Snow added 14 points. Fiacco had eight points, seven rebounds and seven blocks off the bench for the Leopards (6-8, 0-3 PL).