Lehigh basketball fans learned yesterday that championships never get old, and you can win Patriot League titles in a variety of ways.
This year's women's basketball championship didn't have the drama that the men's final had the day before. But that was fine with everybody at Stabler arena last night, when the fans in attendance saw exactly what the women's team is capable of doing in the NCAA tournament. Their 58-42 victory was pretty much a done deal early in the second half - if not before. The only question was if American, who averaged 62.7 points per game and had outscored their opposition by an average of 20 points in each of their other tournament games, would be held under 40 points by Lehigh's "40 minutes of hell" defense. (more)
American sophomore G Raven Harris connected on an early 3 pointer to give the Lady Eagles an early lead. And American wouldn't score another field goal for another 10 minutes as Lehigh would embark on an 18-2 run and never really look back.
Fitting head coach Sue Troyan's vision of "team", those 18 points came from a lot of different players: senior G Alex Ross would drain a 3 pointer (three of her 13 points on the evening), junior F Courtney Dentler would hit a two 3-pointer and jumper (7 points, 4 rebounds), junior G Kristen Dalton would add a bucket and another 3-pointer (8 points off the bench), senior G Tricia Smith would add a bucket (7 points, 11 boards) and junior G Erica Prosser would add a bucket and a free throw.
Meanwhile, sophomore C Alexa Williams and the rest of the Lehigh defense was busy shutting down junior F Michelle Kirk, junior F Liz Leer and the rest of American's offense. Before the game I said I would be happy if they held Kirk and Leer to 25 combined points to have a chance; the Lady Hawks held them to 16 points and 4-for-24 shooting. No Lady Eagle scored in double figures. They shot 22.4% for the game.
“This one was just as special as last years,” Troyan said after the game. “I was confident coming into the game and the team really came out and played tremendous. I believe the experience of last year really helped the team in knowing what it takes to do it again.”
"We knew they were going to come out firing shots. Once [Harris] hit the shot, it made a difference because we knew we had to play lockdown defense even more," said Smith after the game. Shewore a smile on her face and the celebratory basketball net around her neck after the game, as detailed by ESPN's recap of the game:
"Blood, sweat and tears every day in practice," Ross said. "We really want to protect our home court."
Lehigh coach Sue Troyan singled out Smith for her defensive effort on Kirk."She in many ways is our most valuable player because she's one of those kids that does those little things to help you win, that you don't see in the boxscore," Troyan said about Smith.
She has such a following in the stands, a student group outfitted in pink fatigues has nicknamed themselves "Tricia's militia."
The CBS College Sports broadcast team showed a lot of shots of a pumped-up pink student section and "Tricia's Militia". There were also shots of members of the Lehigh men's basketball team, too, showing their support. Senior F Zahir Carrington and head coach Dr. Brett Reed were interviewed at halftime as well.
Congratulations to the women's basketball team - going back-to-back!