Women’s Basketball Falls in Patriot League Finals, advances to NIT

Brooke Tracey, Senior Writer

The Bison women’s basketball team had several exciting matchups this past week versus Colgate on Wednesday March 2, Lehigh on Monday March 7 and Navy on Thursday March 10 in critical playoff matches. The Bison gained the edge over all three of their opponents, ending the Patriot League regular season with a 12-6 record, while strengthening their overall record to 22-8 and advancing to the Patriot League semifinal, and eventually final, games.

The first match was an impressive 91-59 victory over the Colgate Raiders in Sojka Pavilion. The Bison dominated from tipoff, outscoring the Raiders 22-16 in the first quarter and leading by 17 points at the half. The Orange and Blue continued to compete, never conceding their lead. The Bison scored 51 points in the second half alone, comfortably securing the victory. All ten Bison who played in the game scored, along with five scoring double figures. This included: Julie Kulesza ’24 (16), Isabella King ’25 (15), Cecelia Collins ’25 (14), Taylor O’Brien ’22 (14), and Remi Sisselman ’25 (10). The 91 points scored by the Orange and Blue is the most since November of 2018.

The Bison carried this momentum into the Patriot League quarterfinals matchup against the Mountain Hawks, which proved to be quite the battle. While the Bison were first to get on the board, this lead did not last long. They were quickly outshot by the Mountain Hawks, trailing 14-17 after the first quarter. The Bison could not seem to overcome the defensive effort from Lehigh, only putting up nine points in the second quarter. The Orange and Blue entered halftime trailing 23-31 but came out fired up after the break. The Mountain Hawks continued to put up points, but the Bison outshot them in the third quarter, 15-14. The fourth quarter of play was a critical turning point. With just a minute and a half left to play, the Bison took the lead for the first time since very early in the game. The Bison’s defensive effort in the final minute proved to be enough to secure the victory, with a final score of 56-53. This will be the Bison’s seventh consecutive season making the Patriot League semifinals game.

O’Brien spoke on the huge win. “Our game was a complete team win on Monday and everybody, even our bench were able to contribute to our success. The energy in the gym was ecstatic and definitely helped with confidence and chemistry on the floor. I am so impressed with how all of our players were able to step up in clutch situations, especially our freshman and our whole team were able to get stops on defense to seal the win,” O’Brien said.

Due to a surprise upset by Navy over the #1 seeded Holy Cross Crusaders, the Bison hosted the Midshipmen in the semifinal match. The Bison defense was stout throughout the contest making everything difficult for Navy who had only seven points in the first and third quarters. Meanwhile, the Bison offense came out on fire led by O’Brien who finished with 21 points. Collins also had a great game for the Bison finishing with five points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. The contest was never close in the second half with the Bison leading by over 20 points throughout. 

The game was close throughout, with Taylor O’Brien ’22 leading the way for the Bison with 20 points on the day. O’Brien has had a very successful senior season and earned a First Team All-Patriot League selection for her efforts. In addition, O’Brien was named Bison of the Week for the third time this year after her strong performance in the championship game. 

As per usual, Marly Walls ’22 was lockdown defensively for the Bison. Walls scored 10 points and added seven rebounds and three steals. Walls has been the centerpiece of the Orange and Blue’s defense all season long and earned Patriot League All-Defensive Team recognition for her efforts. 

Despite the loss in the Patriot League final, the Bison earned an at-large bid to the NIT tournament. Collins explained that although the team was disappointed with the result in the championship game, they were excited to head to the NIT. Collins explained “all of us were obviously disappointed with how we ended the Patriot League Championship and our loss to American, but also really excited about the opportunity to play in the NIT. I’ve just been really grateful to learn from these seniors and am fortunate that I get to keep playing with them.”

The Bison were able to continue their season on Friday the 18th, facing Atlantic 10 member Fordham, in the Bronx. 

O’Brien tallied a career-high 35 points to lead the Bison to a 73-64 win over Fordham. The Orange and Blue were also strong defensively, holding the Rams to only 22.9 shooting percentage in the first three quarters. Walls added 11 points in addition to her usual strong defense. The game was back and forth, Isabella King ’25 adding a key late three-pointer to pull the Bison ahead and build momentum, ultimately securing the win. 

The Bison then faced Drexel on Monday the 21st for their Sweet 16 matchup. The Orange and Blue faced former teammate Tessa Brugler as she is taking her fifth year of eligibility with the Dragons. Collins tallied a career-high 23 points on the day, and Shaffer had a double-double. The Bison headed into the half with a deficit, however, were able to fight back through the third quarter to take the lead. However, Drexel was able to rally with eight minutes left and overcome a 17-point deficit, and secure the win. 

The Bison end their season with a 24-10 overall record and a successful season, led by two accomplished seniors in Marly Walls ’22 and Taylor O’Brien ’22.

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