Posted: 02/29/2012 | Last updated: March 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The second-seeded Lehigh women’s basketball team will open up the Patriot League Tournament Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the seventh-seeded Bucknell Bison at Stabler Arena. This is the fourth straight year in which Lehigh has been at least the #2 seed. The Mountain Hawks are riding a three-game winning streak as Lehigh begins its journey for its fourth league title and third in four years.
Should Lehigh win, the Mountain Hawks would host the winner of #3 Navy and #6 Colgate on Monday, March 5 at 7 p.m.
The Mountain Hawks have advanced past the Quarterfinals five straight years. Tickets for Thursday night’s game can be purchased online ev6.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventInfo, over the phone (610-758-4263) or in-person at Stabler Arena, Monday-through-Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets cost $6 for adults and $3 for students/children/seniors.
Thursday’s game can also be seen live on Service Electric Channel 50 with Steve Degler and Jim Wills and can be heard on ESPN Radio 1230/1320 with Matt Markus.
Lehigh is 3-1 all-time vs. Bucknell in the Patriot League Tournament as the two most recently met in the 2010 Quarterfinals where #1 Lehigh won 72-57 over the #8 Bison. The schools met only once before in the #2 vs. #7 matchup when in the 2005 Tournament, Lehigh won 54-52 at Stabler Arena thanks to a game-winning tip-in with 0.4 seconds left.
Thursday’s game will mark the third team the two schools this season as Lehigh and Bucknell split the season series with each team winning on the road. The Mountain Hawks won in Lewisburg on Jan. 18 53-38 while the Bison won at Stabler 62-56 on Feb. 15. In the most recent game, Lehigh trailed by as many as 19 points halfway through the second half but went on a 21-5 run to cut the deficit to three with 33 seconds left but couldn’t complete the comeback despite holding Bucknell without a field goal for the game’s final 6:11.
Prior to that loss, Lehigh had won 10 straight over Bucknell with 15-point average margin of victory. Thursday will be the 71st all-time meeting between the two schools with Lehigh holding the all-time edge 39-31.
After dropping three in a way towards the end of the regular season, Lehigh won three straight in order to secure the #2 seed. The Mountain Hawks hit some milestones over the course of its regular season and come Thursday, could have a couple more.
In Lehigh’s final regular season game vs. Army on Saturday, senior Alexa Williams set a new Lehigh single-season record with 187 free-throw attempts, surpassing the 186 mark set by Kelly Madden in the 1994-95 season. She is also 10 made free throws away from surpassing Madden and Anne Tierney’s (2000-01) single-season record of 146.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Williams was named to the First Team All-Patriot League.
Williams ranks #11 on the Patriot League’s all-time blocks list with 122. This season Williams also became the 23rd student-athlete in Patriot League history to have 700 career rebounds. Her total is now at 765, which places her #3 all-time at Lehigh and #15 all-time in the league and is just four rebounds away from surpassing #14 (Maggie Fontana, Holy Cross, 2001-05).
Senior Emily Gratch scored her 1,000th career point on Feb. 4 at Holy Cross, becoming the 15th Lehigh women’s basketball player in history to reach the milestone. She currently has 1,090 points which ranks her #13 all-time at Lehigh. She is also six rebounds away from 500 for her career which will make her the fifth player in Lehigh women’s basketball history to have 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for her career.
Williams leads the team in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks. Her 8.9 rebounds per game rank #1 in the league while her 12.5 points rank #6. She ranks #4 in blocked shots (1.5), #7 in steals (1.5), #7 in field goal percentage (44.4%) and #8 in free-throw percentage (73.3%).
On Feb. 11 at Colgate, Williams had a career-high 27 points while tying her career-high of 10 made field goals. She has scored 23+ points three times this season. In her previous three seasons (95 games), she had none.
Williams averaged 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds in league play, which ranked #2 and #3 respectively.
Gratch is second on the team in scoring (12.0), rebounding (6.5) and blocks (0.9). She leads the team with a 50.2 field goal percentage, including a stellar 52.8% in league games which ranks #2 in the league. In league games, Gratch is also averaging 12.6 points (#9 in the league) and 5.6 rebounds (#13 in the league).
The duo will look to carry the Mountain Hawks against a Bucknell team that enters Thursday’s game on a three-game losing streak. During league play, the Bison were first in rebounding defense (32.9), rebounding margin (+2.7) and free-throw percentage (75.0%).
The Bison found success this season thanks to its defensive efforts. If the season were to end at the regular season, Bucknell’s 59.0 scoring defense is the best since the 2006-07 team allowed just 56.1 points per game, which currently stands as the Bucknell school record.
In the 2012 series with Lehigh, Bucknell allowed 53 and 56 points to the Mountain Hawks. The Bison’s 54.5 points allowed against Lehigh this season is the fewest since they gave up 45.0 points per game in 2007. Bucknell won over Lehigh 64-37 and 63-53 in those two matchups. That stretch also marked the last time the Bison won back-to-back games against the Mountain Hawks.
Offensively, Bucknell is led by Shelby Romine and Lindsay Horbatuck. Romine leads the team in scoring with 9.8 points per game. She also finished the season #1 in the league in free-throw shooting at 78.8%.
Horbatuck is averaging 7.6 points while her 8.4 rebounds per game rank #2 in the league behind Lehigh’s Alexa Williams. Horbatuck can also get it done at the charity stripe as she ranks #3 in the league at 77.2%. She shot 90.0% from the line in league play. She also averaged 9.6 points and 9.4 rebounds during league action while shooting 52.1% from the field.
Romine scored 23 points against Lehigh in the last meeting while Horbatuck added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.