The Lafayette women’s basketball team is feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a string of postponements sandwiched around a pair of wins against Loyola Maryland and a loss to Boston University over the past month.
Over 10 games have been postponed or cancelled for the women, significantly more than the men’s team, leaving them with a 2-5 record after just seven games in the first seven weeks of the season. The team typically plays around 30 games in a season, but currently only has five games scheduled between now and the beginning of the playoffs in March.
Lafayette must complete 12 regular season games to be eligible to compete in the playoffs, according to league rules, leaving them little margin for further postponements in the coming weeks.
The team was back in action these past two weeks, earning their first victory of the season, 66-57, over Loyola Maryland on Jan. 30, and falling to Boston University on Feb. 7 with a score of 53-46. The Leopards earned their second win of the season on Wednesday in a rescheduled contest against Loyola, 76-69, moving their record to 2-5.
After a 20-day break from competition, the Leopards came out firing to capture their first win of the season over Loyola, quickly turning a 4-4 ball game into a 19-6 lead with a 15-2 run. Lafayette led by 10 entering the second quarter with the score at 21-11.
The Leopards opened the second quarter with a layup from freshman forward Ashley Evans, her first points of the season, to increase the lead to 12. From there Loyola embarked on a 13-0 run and retook the lead briefly, 24-23, with five minutes remaining in the half. But a three-pointer from junior guard Nicole Johnson sparked a 9-0 Lafayette run, and the Leopards carried a 32-26 advantage into the halftime break. The Leopards would hold this lead for the rest of the contest.
Senior guard Drew Freeland opened the second half with a quick three-pointer, triggering another Lafayette run that stretched their advantage to 14 late in the third thanks to an 8-0 run. The Leopards carried a 53-40 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Greyhounds never got closer than eight points in the fourth as Lafayette held on for the win, 66-57, their first of the season.
“We played really well defensively. I think that was one of our main focal points from our past games. I think our defense is what fuels us,” Johnson said. “We always love to see the ball going in the basket, which it did, but I think if we have a solid game defensively then we can beat more teams.”
Johnson’s words of strong defense rang true as the Leopards allowed their second fewest points of the season, holding Loyola to 33 percent shooting from the field.
The Leopards were also supported by three players scoring in double figures. Senior forward Natalie Kucowski scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds and six assists, capturing her 47th career double-double. Freeland added another 13, while Johnson scored a season-high 12 points. Sophomore forward Reilly Campbell chipped in with nine points and seven boards.
Sunday’s game against Boston University followed a similar trajectory as the prior contest with a much different outcome. Both teams scored consistently and evenly throughout the first quarter, which ended up tied 15-15 after the Leopards closed the frame on a 9-3 run.
In the second quarter, the Leopards went on a quick 5-0 run kickstarted by a three from freshman guard Makayla Andrews and a layup from Freeland. The Terriers responded with two baskets of their own to make it a one-point game. Still up one, Johnson drained two free throws before senior guard Sydney Sabino connected from long distance to give the Leopards a 27-21 lead at halftime.
The third quarter saw back and forth action from both teams, with the Leopards holding onto an eight-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The Terriers controlled the fourth quarter from start to finish, outscoring the Leopards 23-8 in the final frame and holding Lafayette scoreless until the three-minute mark, at which point Boston had built an eight-point lead of their own. The Leopards got as close as four points but it was too little, too late.
“On the offensive end, shots that usually fall weren’t falling,” Campbell said. “We had good looks, but at the end of the day Boston University made the shots that mattered.”
Kucowski led the team in scoring with 10 points and seven rebounds, and is now just 93 rebounds away from becoming the Patriot League’s All-Time Leading Rebounder. In her first start, junior forward Naomi Ganpo notched eight points and three boards, while sophomore guard Jess Booth scored seven and handed out a pair of assists.
The Leopards held Boston University to just 53 points in the loss, which is the fewest points the team has allowed in a game all season.
“We had a good defensive outing, so we were really proud of ourselves,” Campbell added. “That was one thing we went into the week before practice wanting to work on and get better at, so I’m proud of us for doing that.”
In their third game of the past 10 days, the Leopards took on Loyola Maryland, where they captured their second win of the season, and second against Loyola Maryland, to move to 2-5 on the season. The theme of the game was highly efficient shooting and strong defense for the Leopards.
Loyola controlled the first possession of the game, and took an early lead before the Leopards went on an 11-2 run to make it 13-7 in their favor, with multiple scores from senior Natalie Kucowski. But the Greyhounds did not quit, as two quick three pointers evened the game at 13. The Leopards responded with five points from Kucowski and two free throws from sophomore guard Jess Booth which brought the Leopard lead back to 7. The Greyhounds managed three points of their own to cut the lead to four, down 24-20 at the end of a high scoring first quarter.
Throughout the second quarter, the Leopards managed to hold their lead but Loyola did manage to outscore the Leopards by one in the quarter, 17-16. Although the Leopards did not pour on the points in the second quarter, they were once again highly efficient from the field. In both quarters, the Leopards shot over 50% from the field, and a combined 45% from beyond the arc. Efficient shooting and tough defense enabled the Leopards to take a 40-37 lead into the half.
In the third quarter the Leopards began to pull away from the Greyhounds, outscoring them 20-11 in the quarter. At the 6:19 mark in the third quarter, the Leopards were up just 3 but a 6-0 run in the next minute and a half brought the lead to nine. A quick two brought it back to seven but the Leopards scored 3 out of the next 4 combined buckets, increasing their lead to 11. Going into the fourth, the Leopards were up 60-48.
Much of the fourth quarter saw Loyola trying to play catch up, but the Leopards managed to hold on the lead. With less than 4 minutes in the game, the Greyhounds had cut it once again to single digits before senior forward Drew Freeland hit a big three pointer. From there, the Leopards managed to get up to a 14 point lead which was by then enough, even when the Greyhounds went on a 7-0 run to end the game. In the end, the Leopards captured a 76 to 69 victory.
Senior Natalie Kucowski scored a career high 36 points on 60 percent shooting. Her 36 point outing was the highest of any Patriot League ball player this season. She also added 13 rebounds of her own. Freeland and Booth each contributed 10 points of their own.
Although the score was close, it fails to show the sheer domination on the defensive end by the Leopards. In the second and third quarters, the Leopards held Loyola to a combined 33% shooting from the field and a dismal 15.48% from three. The Leopards essentially closed out the game in those two quarters with strong defense and efficient shooting throughout the game.
The Leopards will have roughly a week to rest and prepare for thier next game, when they head to Annapolis, Maryland, to play Navy.