BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Winners of eight of its last 10 including a pair of Patriot League games, the Lehigh women’s basketball team (10-8, 3-1 PL) will look to continue the momentum when hosting Lafayette (7-12, 1-3 PL) Saturday at 7 p.m. It will be the 80th meeting between the rivals and while the Leopards hold the all-time edge, the Mountain Hawks have won eight of the last nine with a 16 point average margin of victory.
Lehigh is coming off a 53-38 victory at Bucknell Wednesday night. Lehigh trailed by two at halftime, but used a big second half as the Mountain Hawks shot 50 percent while holding the Bison to just 14 points. The Mountain Hawks were led by senior Emily Gratch’s 17 points and seven rebounds while senior Alexa Williams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Gratch added three blocks and three steals while Williams had two blocks and two steals. The duo combined to shoot an impressive 13-for-23 from the floor.
The Mountain Hawks have been led this season by their two Preseason All-Patriot League forwards in Williams and Gratch. Williams leads the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. Her 11.3 points per game rank sixth in the Patriot League and her 9.7 rebounds rank first while her 1.6 blocks rank third and 1.7 steals rank sixth. Williams has scored in double figures in four straight games and seven of her last eight. Gratch missed Lehigh’s first eight games due to injury but has returned with full force as she is second on the team in scoring (10.4) and rebounding (7.3) and Lehigh is 8-2 since her return to the lineup.
With two blocks against Bucknell, Williams moved into 11th on the League’s all-time chart with 109, hopping over Bucknell’s Desire Almind (2000-04). Williams, who has averaged around 10 rebounds per game for most of the season, has 691 career boards to place her 26th all-time in League annals. She’s nine away from becoming the 23rd student-athlete in League history with 700.
While the Mountain Hawks rank first in the League in rebounding (41.6), they will be taking on a Lafayette team that sits right behind them with 40.3 rebounds per game. While Lafayette has struggled at times offensively, it ranks second in field goal percentage defense holding teams to 35.5 percent.
Lafayette finished its non-League slate 6-9 as it faced some tough opponents in Princeton, Syracuse, No. 5 Maryland and Pitt. The Leopards actually took Pitt to overtime before falling 74-69.
The Leopards are off to a 1-3 League start as they fell to Navy and Army before beating Bucknell and most recently losing 75-61 Wednesday vs. Holy Cross. The Crusaders used a 12-0 run in the middle of the first half to help build a nine-point lead at the half. Holy Cross then pulled away for good late in the game going on an 11-0 run. Lafayette was led by Danielle Fiacco’s team-high 11 points and seven rebounds while Emily Homan added eight points and seven rebounds.
The Lepoards have been led by the duo of Fiacco and Homan this season. Fiacco is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder at 11.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while Homan is second with 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. Fiacco was named the Patriot League Player of the Week on November 28th and Homan won the award on January 3rd. Homan has been named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week three times this season including the sam week she won the Player of the Week award. Brya Freeman also won a weekly award as she was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week on December 12th.
Lafeyette lost their top three scorers from last season including LaKeisha Wright who was a two-time All-Patriot League standout and the program’s sixth all-time leading scorer. The Leopards returned nine players and added five newcomers.
Lafeyette was picked sixth in the League’s Preseason Poll.
Lehigh-Lafayette met three times last season. The Mountain Hawks fell at Stabler Arena 57-54 on January 22nd but cruised 70-49 on February 19th at Lafayette. The two then squared off in the Patriot League Quarterfinals on March 5th as the second-seed Lehigh handily defeated the seventh-seed Lafayette 82-58 at Stabler Arena.
Prior to last season’s loss to the Leopards, the Mountain Hawks hadn’t fallen to Lafayette since February 23rd, 2008.
Saturday’s game will be a Summit Series Event. Tickets will be $8.00 each and just $4.00 for Lehigh students. GOLD Plus will be available on game day at Stabler Arena inside the lobby for students to purchase.
After Saturday’s game, Lehigh will hit the road for three-straight games as the Mountain Hawks travel to take on Navy, Army and then Holy Cross.