The Lafayette women’s basketball team could not carry their momentum into the Patriot League quarterfinal last weekend, falling 74-68 to No. 2 seed Boston University. The team’s season comes to a close as the Leopards finish 5-8 overall and 5-7 in conference play.
“Given the outcome, it wasn’t our best performance, but we fought hard the entire game,” said senior forward Natalie Kucowski. “They made their runs, but we stayed composed and then made a run of our own.”
Despite the loss, Kucowski shined as usual, recording 21 points and grabbing a whopping 15 rebounds for her 54th career double-double. Her 15 rebounds made her the Patriot League’s all-time career leader with 1197 rebounds, an accolade she has been working towards for quite some time. Kucowski’s 21 points also moved her to fourth place on Lafayette’s all-time career scoring list.
“I wanted to come in and have an impact on the program, but I didn’t expect this,” Kucowski said. “It is an honor to be recognized for the accomplishments and awards.”
The Leopards got off to a hot start against Boston, jumping out to a 15-5 lead within the first eight minutes. But the Terriers quickly responded, ending the quarter on a 10-3 run to cut the Lafayette lead to three, 18-15.
Both teams came out swinging in the second quarter and the score remained close. Boston turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead in the waning minutes of the second quarter, and the Leopards went into halftime down 38-33.
Knowing they had ground to make up, the Leopards hung around after halftime and gradually narrowed the gap until the game was tied at 46 with just under four minutes left in the quarter. While the Terriers put up more shots than the Leopards, Lafayette’s defense held Boston in check. The Terriers shot just 35 percent from the floor in the quarter, while the Leopards shot 7-10 from the field along with a 3-5 effort from three-point land.
Lafayette outscored the Terriers 18-14 in the frame and ended the third quarter on a 13-6 run. Boston led 52-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Terriers to respond, as they scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter to put the game well out of reach. The Leopards cut the lead to nine with two and a half minutes to play, but the Terriers hung on to win 74-68.
“I feel like we performed well for the most part,” said senior guard Drew Freeland. “It just came down to a few less turnovers and a few more made shots for them off of those turnovers. That’s just how games go sometimes.”
The Boston defense stifled the Leopards in the final quarter, holding the Leopards to 36 percent shooting from the field and 2-6 from three. The Leopards also turned the ball over seven more times than the Terriers (18-11) over the course of the game.
Lafayette and Boston faced off once during the regular season, with the Terriers earning a 53-46 win in a low-scoring affair. Boston finished the regular season 10-2 in the Patriot League to earn the second seed.
Kucowski added four assists, three blocks and two steals for the Leopards, while junior forward Naomi Ganpo scored 10 points and sophomore guard Jess Booth chipped in eight.
“I’m proud of my performance this season,” Kucowski said. “It took me a little bit longer than I would’ve liked to get into a routine, but I felt like I played with a consistency that may not have been there my previous years.”
Kucowski epitomized consistency on the glass, as she led all NCAA Division I women’s basketball players with 13.3 rebounds per game this season.
The Leopards have a lot to look forward to next season as the team is returning three of its five starting players. Replacing the production of Kucowski will be a tall order, but her departure will give younger players an opportunity to step up.
“The relationships I’ve built with teammates and coaches is by far the most enjoyable part of my career,” Kucowski said. “Sports have such an incredible way of bringing people together.”
Despite a quick exit in the conference tournament, this unusual spring season still created some positive memories for many of the players.
“Beating Lehigh for the first time in years was one of the most memorable moments,” Freeland said. “It just hadn’t been done in so long and we finally had the confidence and mindset to do it, and we did!”