Patriot League notebook: Rapid reaction as Colgate shuts down season

Navy’s dynamic duo leading the drive for a division title

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Colgate has decided to shut down their season. How will that decision impact the league?

On the court, Navy is finding their stride behind a backcourt duo that just keeps on making big plays in crunch-time. Can first-year head coach Tim Taylor guide the Mids to a surprising first place finish in the South division?

In Boston, the Terriers look like a different team on the defensive end and grabbed a key win on Wednesday night versus Holy Cross to improve their playoff positioning. What’s behind their winning streak?

Let’s break it all down as we look ahead to weekend action:

Colgate has opted out of the 2020-21 season. Senior guard Keelah Dixon and the Raiders finish the season with a 1-8 mark in an injury-plagued year. Photo credit: Yvonne Landis/Colgate Athletic Communcations

Colgate opts-out of the season; remaining games cancelled

The Raiders are cancelling the remainder of their season citing a limited number of players available due to injury. The injuries depleted the team's roster, impacting the program's ability to practice and play—sometimes limiting sessions to as few as five players.

After Saturday’s 61-40 loss to Holy Cross, the program announced the cancellation of its Sunday match-up as a result of falling below the NCAA minimum number of healthy student-athletes who could compete.

Against Holy Cross, the Raiders started two sophomores and three first-years, with Lindsay Blackmore and Maggie Walsh earning their first career starts. Point guard Alexa Brodie returned to the lineup for the first time after missing four games because of injury.

It’s been a rollercoaster season this year for Colgate (1-8) after losing four seniors—including first-team All-Patriot Rachel Thompson—from last year’s record-setting 19-11 team. This year, the squad lost four more would-be starters to season-ending injuries in Nia Ahart, Taylor Langan, Holly Lueken and Ava Williams before league play began.

The decision impacts division foe Boston University who will lose the opportunity to play two key games at home. The Terriers swept Colgate on the road in January. The Raiders’ scheduled opponent for this weekend was Lehigh—a team that has yet to play a game in the month of February. The Mountain Hawks’ next game is now scheduled for February 27th.

While Colgate’s decision is not specifically due to COVID-19, the team joins many programs throughout the country who have opted out during the pandemic, including Canisius, Duke, Virginia, Vanderbilt, and Vermont, among others. The challenges of testing, repeated quarantines, and the impact of the uncertainty of scheduled games on student-athletes’ mental and emotional resiliency continue to be themes in an unprecedented NCAA season.

Navy junior Jennifer Coleman is averaging a double-double on the season and leading the Mids to the playoffs in the South division. Photo credit: Navy Athletics

Navy duo of Kolbi Green and Jennifer Coleman leading Navy’s playoff drive

Unstoppable.

It’s the word that best describes the one-two punch of guards Jennifer Coleman and Kolbi Green of Navy when they are determined to make a play.

On Wednesday night, it was their fourth quarter heroics and head coach Tim Taylor’s creative defensive strategy that combined for a thrilling 55-53 victory over Lafayette in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

Senior guard Sophie Gatzounas scored an and-one in the paint on an assist from Green with 1:33 left in the game for her only points of the contest and a 54-51 lead. It was all Navy needed to pull out the win.

Coleman and Green each played 35 minutes and combined for 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. The two provided the steady play and leadership Navy required in the fourth quarter, setting the table in combining for nine points before Gatzounas’ big basket.

Coach Taylor’s impact against Lafayette came through in the form of a triangle—a triangle-and-two to be exact. The unique defensive alignment focused on denying the ball to, and pressing up on, the Leopards’ top two scorers—Natalie Kucowski and Drew Freeland. What was the impact? Kucowski, the league’s preseason Player of the Year, scored 10 points on six shots in 38 minutes of action. Freeland, who was averaging 10.9 points per game, attempted just two shots, did not score, and had zero assists in 37 minutes.

Taylor on Navy’s ability to persevere:

Tonight was all about resiliency. We didn't have much in our legs. I could see it and we were trying to massage our roster and get through tonight. Hats off to this team! We put our players in tough situations in practice to help prepare them for games like tonight.

The Mids have won three in a row and five out of six games. Those weary legs are in the initial stretch of eight games in 16 days that will test the resiliency of their two leaders. So far, so good.

Over the weekend, the duo teamed up to help the Mids earn a sweep of Loyola (MD) and add two key South division wins in the team’s race to the playoffs.

Navy’s Sophie Gatzounas converted a clutch and-one with 1:33 remaining to lift Navy to a 55-53 victory over Lafayette for the Mids’ third straight win. Photo credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics

Coleman and Green combined to score 66.3% of their team’s points in the wins, shooting 32-of-55 from the floor and grabbing more rebounds together (43) than their teammates combined (30). The two victories moved Navy (3-1 division record) into a first-place tie with American.

Taylor on his team’s effort on the boards:

One of the keys we talked about was to win the rebounding battle, as well as winning it on the defensive end. We're an undersized team so we have to win the rebounding battle with grit and determination.

Coleman is second in the league in rebounding, grabbing 11.3 per game. On the offensive glass, teammates Gatzounas (3.5) and Ciera Hertelendy (2.4) help keep a modest Navy offense afloat. The Mids are scoring 57.9 points per game—good for seventh in the conference. Green and Coleman lead the team in shots attempted and, if there is a big play to be made, it starts with them.

They are the top scoring duo in the league, and each places in the top ten for scoring overall with Coleman (16.7 ppg) right behind league-leader, American’s Jade Edwards (20.0 ppg), and Green (14.7 ppg) logging in at sixth.

Can they keep up the pace? That stretch of playing eight games in 16 days comes as Green (37.4 mpg) and Coleman (36.1 mpg) are logging heavy minutes. They are each in the top three in the conference for minutes played.

Taylor favors zone defense to keep the duo out of foul trouble and help his undersized group compete against bigger and deeper teams—and it’s an approach that’s worked. Despite the minutes played, Green commits just 2.7 fouls per contest while Coleman averages just 2.6 and the Mids have hung tough with their defensive approach.

And how does the combination of Coleman and Green factor into the defensive end? They are third and fourth, respectively, in steals per contest with 2.4 and have helped Navy to place second in the league in steals with 7.7 swipes a game.

The zone defense is working for Taylor and his crew. They are third in the league in points allowed per game at 57.0 and third in field goal percentage defense at 36.3%. It’s a small sample size in this COVID-shortened season, but the defense has shown improvement from a season ago when the Mids were next-to-last in field goal percentage defense, allowing a 45.3% conversion rate.

The sprint for the finish is underway for Navy and their busy slate continues this weekend with a two-game set versus Army. Expect the speedy Green and versatile Coleman to be leading the way, straight to the playoffs.

Senior point guard Katie Nelson and the Terriers avenged their only loss of the season with a dominating 82-41 victory over Army. Photo credit: Rich Gannon

Boston University zeroes in on first place in the North after long layoff

What’s happening in Beantown? Due to coronavirus protocols, Boston University did not play a game from January 18th until February 7th. But the Terriers haven’t looked rusty in their return to the court, especially on defense. Did head coach Marisa Moseley have a defensive boot camp? Three weeks of shell drills and zone close-out breakdown? There’s something different about the team since their long layoff.

The Terriers look playoff ready.

They look like they’re on the same page—and have turned that page after a difficult loss to Army. Prior to the break, they squeaked by a depleted Colgate team, 62-58. And a week later suffered that ugly, 54-43 loss to the Black Knights on the road; not the type of performance for a program with title aspirations and the talent to back up the goal. The loss to Army happened on January 17th and was followed by that three-week layoff.

The time off practicing helped. The defense is sharper and more aggressive, and the line-up seems to have settled into a rotation better suited to the personnel. Guard Emily Esposito has emerged as a super sub for the team while junior forward Riley Childs has eased back into the starting line-up. Childs emotional energy, spirit, and leadership are a big piece to the successful puzzle being shaped by Moseley this season. Her presence as a starter sets the table emotionally for her team each contest. The rotation looks better, the combinations more comfortable.

Credit sophomore Maggie Pina for a change in her energy and commitment on the defensive end. She’s looking for ways to contribute outside of her role as a shooter but she’s staying aggressive with her shot, too. In the weekend games versus Army before the team’s layoff, Pina shot a combined 5-for-29. In the rematch series this past weekend, Pina combined to shoot 11-for-21, including four threes as the Terriers swept the Black Knights. That mental fortitude and confidence is a great sign for BU. Pina is going to have a big game on her fingertips eventually—and she’s going to win the moment.

Sydney Johnson has stepped up her game. In the four games since the break, she’s averaging 10.0 points per game, rebounding the ball better, and looking to attack the paint. She also added nine steals in that stretch and is applying smart pressure on the ball without fouling.

In the post, Maren Durant seems like a renewed presence. In the same four-game span, she’s shot 22-for-31 from the floor for 70.9% and averaged 11.7 points per game. She’s avoided foul trouble, too—an area of concern for the team.

Post teammate Childs is doing work inside as well. She’s been relentless on the boards, averaging 9.0 per game in that stretch and supplying the positive energy and leadership to keep her teammates engaged.

It seems clear that the coaches used their time to re-define roles and, to their credit, the players are embracing those roles down the stretch. The team swept through Army in a weekend rematch with ease. On Wednesday, the squad had its latest test in divisional play against Holy Cross.

BU topped the Crusaders, 71-53, and are off to their best start through the first 10 games in program history with a 9-1 record.

The Terriers won the battle in the paint, outscoring Holy Cross 50-24 — their second straight game with 50 points down low.

The post duo of Durant and Childs had their way inside against the smaller Crusaders. Durant scored a career-high 16 points and Childs added 14 on 5-of-6 shooting. Esposito added 13 points and Johnson added 10 to the balanced effort.

But it’s the defense that’s evolved for the Terriers. Over the four games since their layoff, they’ve allowed just 48.2 points per game. Opponents have shot 72-of-213 for 33.8% from the floor. If they are going to make a run for the championship, it’ll be made from the defensive end — and the team might look back on that three-week break from competition as the most important stretch of the season.

BU plays a home-and-home with Holy Cross this weekend as a part of their three-game series this week.

Current Standings:

(Division record, League overall record)

North division

Boston University (8-1, 9-1)

Holy Cross (6-4, 6-6)

Army (5-7, 6-8)

*Colgate (1-8, 1-8)

Central division

Bucknell (6-0, 8-0)

Lehigh (2-4, 6-4)

Lafayette (0-4, 2-6)

South division

American (3-1, 3-3)

Navy (3-1, 5-2)

Loyola (MD) (0-4, 0-8)

*Colgate has opted out of the season. Schedule is complete.

What’s the can’t-miss match-up of the week? American at Loyola (MD)

It’s the second weekend set for these division foes and one with big playoff implications. American is now tied for first place in the South division with a surging Navy squad and looks to keep pace. Loyola (MD) is in search of their first win of the season but the door to the playoffs remains open after Lafayette’s loss to Navy on Wednesday night. The Greyhounds have four games remaining and will need to win three of four to have a chance at the 8th and final playoff seed. Who will handle the playoff pressure?

Senior forward Isabella Therien could be the difference for the Greyhounds in the weekend set. Her first games of the season — in fact, her first games in over a year and a half due to injury — were against American when the Eagles swept. Therien is playing well and averaging 18.0 points in her last three games. American will have to account for her three-point shooting. She’s 6-for-14 from deep in that stretch.

The Eagles have been off since January 24th due to coronavirus protocols—the last time they played Loyola (MD). Will the layoff be a factor in the Greyhounds’ favor? American will certainly see zone defense from head coach Joe Logan’s squad. The Eagles have struggled from three-point distance, shooting just 22-of-87 for 25.3% from the field. League leading scorer Jade Edwards (20.0 ppg) will draw a lot of attention from the Loyola (MD) defense. Expect to see a very competitive weekend series here.

The last meeting: January 24, 2021. American won 67-58, as the Eagles overcame a 4-for-18 performance from the three-point line. Loyola (MD) committed 25 fouls and 19 turnovers in an uphill battle. Backcourt duo Jade Edwards and Indeya Sanders combined for 34 points and 18 rebounds to lead American.  

Tune in to Patriot League action this week:

(Note: The Patriot League is no longer streaming games for free on the Stadium platform. All games are now streamed through ESPN+ for a subscription fee. Click here for the video link to all league competition.)

February 20

#Army at Navy @11:00a.m.

Boston University at Holy Cross @1:00p.m.

^Lafayette at Bucknell @2:00p.m.

Loyola (MD) at American @4:00p.m.

*Colgate at Lehigh @5:30p.m.

February 21

#Army at Navy @12:00p.m.

American at Loyola (MD) @12:00p.m.

Holy Cross at Boston University @2:00p.m.

Lafayette at Lehigh @2:00p.m.

^Bucknell at Lafayette @4:00p.m.

*Lehigh at Colgate @5:00p.m.

February 22

Lehigh at Lafayette @7:00p.m.

February 24

Navy at American @6:00p.m.

*Game cancelled due to season opt-out for Colgate.

#Game cancelled due to a positive COVID-19 test within Army’s Tier 1 group.

^Game postponed due to health and safety precautions at Bucknell.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Jennifer Coleman, Navy, Junior Guard

  • Coleman converted 18-of-29 shots from the floor for 62.1% in two wins over Loyola (MD).

  • The junior guard recorded double-doubles in four straight games and a stretch of six out of seven games.

  • Coleman is averaging a double-double on the season with 17.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week

Bronagh Power-Cassidy, Holy Cross, Freshman Guard

  • Power-Cassidy scored 13 points and added five rebounds and four assists in a 61-40 win over Colgate.

  • The Ireland native has scored in double figures six times this year and has been Holy Cross' leading scorer in three games this season.

  • Power-Cassidy is averaging 10.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 12 starts for the 6-6 Crusaders.

League news and notes:

  • Loyola senior forward Isabella Therien totaled 38 points over the weekend for the Greyhounds. She leads the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game and is averaging 18.0 ppg over the last three contests.

  • Lehigh is 4-0 when forcing opponents into 15 or more turnovers a game. The Mountain Hawks have only accomplished the feat one time over their last seven games—an 87-68 victory over Holy Cross back on January 23rd.

  • Point guard Alexa Brodie leads Colgate in scoring (13.0 ppg) and assists (3.4 apg). The sophomore is also shooting 41.6% from the floor on a 32-for-77 effort.

  • The American Eagles are just 22-for-87 (25.3%) from three-point distance this season. The Eagles (3-3) have allowed 45 made threes and converted more threes than their opponent just once this season—a 67-58 win over Loyola (MD) on January 24th.

  • Central division foes Bucknell and Lehigh are the only two teams in the league with more assists than turnovers. The squads are first and second, respectively, in the league with marks of 1.7 and 1.4 in assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • The 61-40 victory over Colgate marked the third time this season that Holy Cross has won by 20 points or more. Five out of the team’s six wins this year have come by double digits.

  • Army’s Alisa Fallon scored 17 points in a 65-53 loss to Boston University. The junior guard shot 6-for-13 from the floor and reached double-digit scoring for the 13th time this season. She leads the Black Knights in scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg).

  • Taylor O’Brien is leading the undefeated (8-0) Bucknell Bison in scoring with 16.1 points per game. The junior guard has started every game and is shooting 50.5% on a 52-for-103 effort from the floor. Bucknell is 24-3 when O’Brien is in the starting line-up.

  • Lafayette and Loyola (MD) are currently in a battle for the 8th and final spot in the league playoff. The Leopards (2-6) have the edge over the Greyhounds (0-8) with four games left to play. Lafayette swept Loyola (MD) head-to-head this season.

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