The Lehigh women's basketball team huddles before practice on Nov. 4, 2019, at Stabler Arena. Lehigh defeated Holy Cross 75-57 on March 7 to advance to the Patriot League semifinals. (Julia Randolph-Flagg/B&W Staff)

Lehigh women’s basketball falls to Lafayette

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Lehigh women’s basketball couldn’t overcome a red hot Lafayette team, losing 70-60 to the rival Leopards.

The Mountain Hawks showed signs of rust to open the game after a two-week pause due to COVID-19 protocols.

“We hit our stride before going into the pause and, the two-week pause, we didn’t have control over that,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “There is nothing to compare it to, so coming out, it was pretty ugly in terms of shooting for 40 minutes.”

After trailing 14-6 five minutes into the game, Lehigh picked up their defensive intensity and fought back into the game.

The Mountain Hawks closed the first quarter strong, with big three-pointers from senior guard Mary Clougherty and junior guard Clair Steele to cut the Lafayette lead to 20-14 at the end of the first quarter.

Frannie Hottinger opened the second quarter with an and-1 layup as Lehigh continued to put pressure on the Leopards leap.

Lafayette responded with a 10-3 run to stretch their lead to 10 in the second quarter and never looked back.

Lafayette led 38-27 at the half.

Head coach Sue Troyan said she thought the group did a lot of 1 on 1 in the first two quarters that typically aren’t apart of their offense.

“The second half we were much better at letting the offense come to us,” Troyan said.

Lehigh’s success all season has stemmed from their ability to score quickly—mostly due to their three-point shooting— where they have shot 35 percent from beyond the arc. In today’s game, the Mountain Hawks shot merely 31 percent from the field while shooting 29 percent from the three-point range.

The Leopards defense was suffocating all afternoon, consistently forcing Lehigh to play offense late into the shot clock and not allowing them to get out in transition.

Lafayette went on a scoring run to open the second half and never took their foot off the pedal.

Behind a fantastic game from Natalie Kucowski, Lafayette seized their early momentum and played a complete game to defeat Lehigh. Kucowski finished the game with 27 points and 19 rebounds.

Despite never taking a lead throughout the game, Lehigh continued to battle throughout the game, bringing energy and playing disciplined basketball in the second half.

“I thought we competed better in the second half than we did in the first two quarters,” Troyan said. “I thought it took a quarter or two quarters to get our feet under us and get back into the rhythm of systematically what we are doing on offense and defense.”

Junior guard Megan Walker was a bright spot all afternoon. After Walker hit a key shot to cut the lead to eleven at the end of the third quarter, she opened the fourth quarter getting fouled on a three-point shot, and converted all three free throws.

“I thought Meg (Walker) played really well,” Troyan said. “I thought she took shots that were within our system and within her strengths. Knocked down the threes when she was open.”

Lafayette responded every time Lehigh made a run. After Walker’s free throws, Kucowski responded with a layup on the other end to keep the lead at ease.

With four minutes remaining, the Mountain Hawks made a final push, Clougherty hit a three to cut the lead to nine points, and Lehigh picked up their defensive pressure, but they could not find themselves back in the game.

Lehigh will look to bounce back tomorrow after a tough loss today when they take on Lafayette at 7:00 p.m. at Kirby Sports Center.

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