By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- After climbing back from 19-points down on Saturday to beat Holy Cross, the Bucknell women's team found itself in the same position on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion against American.
The Eagles, one of the four teams tied atop the Patriot League with the Bison, used its full court pressure to put Bucknell in a 19-point hole to start the game.
However, once again the Bison found a way to rally, tying the game with just over four minutes left.
But this time, Bucknell didn't have enough in its tank to finish off the comeback.
Geleisa George had two late driving layups and the Eagles hit all six of their foul shots down the stretch as American held off Bucknell 66-58.
"In some ways it's not fair for us to hang our hat on this, but you take away those 10 minutes (at the beginning of the game), I'm not making excuses, but I think we calmed down and played our kind of game," Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said. "I was really proud with the way our kids battled back."
The victory puts American in a tie for first-place with Navy at 5-1 in the Patriot League. Bucknell is now tied with Army, who lost 51-46 to Holy Cross on Wednesday, for second place at 4-2. Bucknell travels to Navy on Saturday in another huge league game.
The Bison (13-8) took a 2-0 lead to start the game, but that was the lone positive from the opening 10 minutes. Bucknell turned the ball over eight times and started the game 2 of 13 from the floor.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were building a 25-6 advantage, including a 17-0 run in that stretch.
"I think obviously not a lesson we didn't already know, but you can't dig yourself a hole like that against a good team. There strength is our Achilles' with the pressure and we knew that going in, which is what is disappointing that we buckled against their pressure," Roussell said. "At 25-6, things were looking a little bleak; I think if you'd have offered a free ticket out of the gym to some of our kids at that point, they would have taken it."
Roussell decided to switch to a 2-3 zone and the Bison started to shoot better, ending the half 7 of 12 and cutting the American lead to 10 at the break.
"We talked last game about making some adjustments you don't want to make just because how the game was flowing," Roussell said. "We knew we would put (the 2-3 zone) out there at some point tonight and it worked for us. It's another credit to kids for executing something we're not known for."
American (12-8) would build a 14-point advantage early in the second half before Bucknell put together a 22-8 to tie the game at 54-54. Shelby Romine had eight points in the run, while Audrey Dotson and Alyssa Dunn each had four. Lindsay Horbatuk's foul shot with 4:17 left tied the game.
But George's penetration proved to be too much for the Bucknell defense. She had two driving layups, sandwiched around a pretty pass inside to Michelle Holmes to give American a 60-56 lead with less than minute. Bucknell turned the ball over on back-to-back trips down the court and the Eagles converted all six of their foul shots down the stretch. For the game, the Eagles, a team that shoots 66 percent from the foul line, converted 13-of-14 from the stripe.
We had the ball in the same girls' hands at the same spots on the court (we've had in past games late), tonight they just didn't go in," Roussell said. "I think it was the combination of their pressure and climbing out of the hole we dug ourselves. Unfortunately, that caught up to us in the end."
Alexis Dobbs had 17 points to lead American, while George finished with 12 points off the bench. Stephanie Ayna also added 12 points.
Romine had 23 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead the Bison. Dotson finished with 12 points and 10 boards. Horbatuck had a game-high 16 boards, including nine on the offensive end.