By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
In a season of ups-and-downs, blown leads and big comebacks, Saturday night’s Patriot League contest at Sojka Pavilion with Lafayette might be the toughest game to recover from for the Bucknell women’s basketball team.
In a four-way battle for the final home first-round game in the upcoming Patriot League women’s basketball tournament, the Bison built a 16-point halftime advantage against the Leopards.
However, Lafayette rallied in the second half, getting a tough runner at the buzzer from Alicia Manning to send the game into overtime, and then scored five quick points to start overtime to seize control in a 66-61 Lafayette victory.
“As much as we got some confidence in the first half, it kind of tore us down in the second half (to lose the lead),” Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said. “Along with the mental part, it’s also physical. We have three kids that played at least 40 minutes. We just don’t have the depth.”
Point guard Shelby Romine played 44 minutes, while Alyssa Dunn and Lindsay Horbatuck each logged 39 minutes on the court.
The loss drops Bucknell to 13-12 overall, 4-6 PL. It’s the fifth consecutive loss for the Bison and puts them in a tie for fifth place with Lafayette (11-14, 4-6) and Lehigh, one game behind Holy Cross for the final home berth in the Patriot League Tournament. The Bison host Lehigh on Wednesday night and travel to Holy Cross next Saturday.
After an early tie, the Bison led the whole way in the first half, using a 15-0 run near the end of the opening stanza. Katherine Harris got the run started with five consecutive points and Horbatuck scored six points in the spurt as the Bison led 32-16 with 2:36 left in the half.
“We came out in the first half and really played together and trusted each other. We got into a flow, really started to look like we used to look,” Roussell said. “We were getting good shots and hitting them. We really played well together.”
The Leopards’ top two scorers – 6-foot-3 forward Emily Homan and 6-foot-7 center Danielle Fiacco – present matchup problems for the smaller Bison. In the first half, a sagging defense and foul trouble allowed Bucknell to keep Lafayette in check inside.
However, the Leopards brought in more shooting in the form of junior forward Kelly Loughney, while rotating Homan and Fiacco at center.
Loughney’s shooting proved to be huge for Lafayette. She scored all 14 of her points in the second half, including three 3-pointers, to open up the inside.
“(Loughney) was a big part of it. Even after she hit some shots and we shouldn’t have sagged off of her, we got caught in a pattern of sinking down and giving a kid a shot we shouldn’t have been giving her,” Roussell said.
The Leopards scored the first 10 points of the second half to cut the Bucknell lead to 37-31 as the Bison didn’t score for the first 6:10.
Bucknell would rally with a 9-4 spurt of its own to push its lead back to double digits on back-to-back inside buckets by Audrey Dotson to take a 48-35 lead with 8:05 left in the game.
However, Lafayette answered with 12 points in a row as Maddie Peabody and Loughney each canned 3-pointers in the run as the Leopards climbed back to 48-47 with 3:28 left in the game.
Dotson had six consecutive points for the Bison, four from the foul line, as Bucknell pushed its lead back to 54-47 with 2:38 left.
Lafayette would cut the lead to three with eight seconds left as Peabody was fouled on a 3-pointer. She made 2-of-3, but Dunn missed the second of two foul shots with seven seconds left.
Lafayette pushed the ball up the court. Manning got the ball on the right wing and drove to the middle of the court. She forced a tough runner with two Bison defenders on her, but was able to get the bucket to send the game to overtime.
A Fiacco putback and a 3-pointer by Loughney gave the Leopards a 60-55 lead just 40 seconds into the extra frame. That forced the Bison to play catch-up the rest of the overtime and they were unable to get any closer than three the rest of the way.
“They hit some shots and we made a lot of mental mistakes in that second half. We did some things we don’t normally do in our regular defense and some things we shouldn’t have down based on the scouting report,” Roussell said. “That part was disappointing. We hung in there, though, and we probably should have won the game. It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Dotson had 19 points to lead Bucknell, while Romine added 11 points. Peabody had 15 points, while Fiacco finished with 12 points and 10 boards.