Women’s basketball splits weekend series with Lehigh as Kucowski closes in on rebounds record

The team faces Lehigh twice more this weekend as the regular season comes to a close. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

The Lafayette women’s basketball team split a pair of games against rival Lehigh last weekend, winning 70-60 on Sunday in Bethlehem and dropping a 71-57 result the following day in Easton. 

The team now carries a 3-7 conference record into the final week of the regular season, and will face Lehigh twice more this weekend. 

The Sunday win marked the 100th time that the two rivals have played and the first Leopard win in Bethlehem since 2011. The teams have become well-acquainted this season; if both games proceed as expected this weekend, Lafayette will have played half of their regular season games against Lehigh. In a typical season, the two teams only play twice. 

“In a normal year, I think we would have focused on it being a rivalry game,” senior forward Natalie Kucowski said. “[Given] Covid, I think we were just excited and energized to be able to play a game regardless of the opponent.” 

The Patriot League, like leagues around the country, has been faced with a series of COVID-19 postponements and cancelations. Many of the team’s games which were originally scheduled for late January and early February were pushed back. 

This gave ample time for the women to adjust their lineups against a team they had already faced. 

“We knew we would be defending their motion offense, so we really emphasized our defensive principles and limiting them to one shot,” Kucowski said. “They also like to get out in transition, so we were locked in on sprinting back after a make or miss to match up.” 

The Leopards led from start to finish on Sunday en route to the win. Kucowski stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, 19 rebounds, three assists and two steals for her 50th career double-double.

Kucowski is also within striking distance of becoming the Patriot League’s all-time leading rebounder. She already set the Lafayette all-time record in January 2020, and is now just 29 rebounds away from breaking the conference mark.

But Kucowski isn’t thinking about it too much.

“The rebounding record is something I’m aware of, but not overly focused on. I’m just focused on playing hard and performing my role for the team,” she said. “Luckily, rebounding is a part of that so it comes throughout the course of the game.”

Kucowski was also named the Patriot League Player of the Week after scoring a combined 63 pts, 51 rebounds, and three double-doubles over the course of the games against Lehigh and Navy. She had help from sophomore guard Jess Booth, who put up 13 points, and senior guard Drew Freeland who notched nine points. 

Monday’s game saw Lehigh run out to a 37-24 halftime advantage and never look back. The Leopards brought it to within two points with 5:33 left in the fourth, but a 17-5 run by the Mountain Hawks sealed the game.

Kucowski had yet another double-double with 26 points and 17 rebounds, while Freeland chipped in 11.

The women will be back in action this weekend with two more games against Lehigh. Saturday’s game in Bethlehem will start at 2 p.m., with Sunday’s game in Easton slated for 4 p.m.

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