By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
It looked like Bucknell’s three-game Patriot League women’s basketball winning streak was over.
The Bison couldn’t break free from the Holy Cross man-to-man defense, and every time they started to build momentum, a turnover or some other mistake would spark a Crusaders’ run.
When Alex Smith shook free for a jumper for Holy Cross with 7:32 left in the game, Bucknell faced a 14-point deficit when the under-eight-minute media timeout came.
However, this Bison team has a resolve forged during last year’s four-win season and a plethora of close games this season.
So coach Aaron Roussell wasn’t ready to write off Saturday’s contest at Sojka Pavilion and neither was his team.
“We said to them at the under-eight timeout, we can’t sit in the locker room after the game and say this is an identity loss,” Roussell. “We can’t talk about not playing hard and getting out toughed (causing this loss).
“Then, I looked at over at (Alyssa) Dunn and she said, ‘We got this one.’”
Bucknell scored the next 14 points to tie the score and ended the game on a 20-3 run, rallying to knock off Holy Cross 62-59.
“We definitely went through some rough times (in this game),” Dunn said. “We stayed strong the whole game and kept pushing and pushing. We were confident we could come back.”
Bucknell finds itself in a four-way tie for first place in the Patriot League by virtue of American’s 45-42 win over Army. The Bison, Eagles, Black Knights and Navy all have one loss in the league. Bucknell next three games are against the team’s its tied with. The Bison host American on Wednesday, travel to Navy on Saturday, then host Army on Feb. 9.
The Bison (13-7 overall, 4-1 PL) struggled through most of the second half. Bucknell cut a six-point Holy Cross lead to two with 18:34 left, but the Crusaders’ methodically built a 14-point advantage with a 24-12 run over an 11-minute stretch. Bucknell had a tough time with the half-court grind of Holy Cross’ defense.
“I think when things don’t go well for 33 minutes, you can keep complaining about what’s going wrong or you find something in you arsenal to change the game,” Roussell said. “It’s not in our identity to pick up full court and to put as much pressure (on them) as we did.
“I think it was the difference in the game because it really energized our kids.”
It also helped that sophomore Audrey Dotson started to heat up. Dotson had eight points in the 14-0 run that tied the game for Bucknell. Dotson was just 1-of-5 in the first half with two points, but shot 6 of 8 from the floor in the second half, scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points after the break.
“I was a little frustrated. They played good defense. Their post players are tough and big, strong and fast,” Dotson said. “Once the team started to get into the flow of the game, so did I.”
Dotson’s jumper with 2:32 left in the game tied the score at 56, but the Bison weren’t done facing adversity. Alex Smith shook free from the Bison defense and canned a wide-open trey with 2:05 left to give Holy Cross a 59-56 lead, but Bucknell answered right back. Shelby Romine drove and kicked it to Katherine Harris on the wing. The sophomore took one step and nailed a huge 3-pointer to tie the game once again with 1:51 left in the game.
“The unfortunate thing about digging yourself a hole is that everything has to go perfectly for you to come back, but even when things didn’t go perfectly for us, we bounced back,” Roussell said. “We tied it, then got caught in a switch (on a screen) against a really good player and she hit a shot. We came right down the floor, kicked it to Kat and she hit a 3. That was a huge shot.”
The teams exchanged turnovers before Dunn blocked the shot of the Crusaders’ Raquel Scott. Felica Mgbada grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 44 seconds left. She made both shots to give Bucknell its first lead of the second half. Mgbada finished with 11 points off the bench for the Bison.
“I was just looking to attack,” Mgbada said. “If my shot wasn’t there, I just tried to get it to the open person.”
Holy Cross missed its next shot and Lindsey Horbatuck made one of two foul shots to make it a 62-59 lead.
Dunn added 11 points as well for Bucknell, the fourth time in five games she’s been in double figures. Horbatuck had a game-high 13 rebounds.
Smith had a game-high 17 points for the Crusaders (9-11, 1-4).