Saturday, 17 November 2018

Loaded Bison eye Patriot League crown

Loaded Bison eye Patriot League crown
04 Nov

Bucknell has a lot of reasons to be excited for the upcoming women’s basketball season.

The Bison return three All-Patriot League starters, four returning starters in all, and the players responsible for 91.7 percent of their points from last year.

Bucknell, which has finished in the top-two each of the last three seasons in the Patriot League, was picked to finish first in the league’s preseason poll.

“We have a target on our backs and teams are going to play their best game against us,” senior Kate Walker said. “The coaches really preach this. We want people to play their best against us because it’s just going to help us in the long run.”

The Bison have set their sights on grabbing their second PL title in three years.

“Our main goal is obviously winning the Patriot League championship,” senior guard Kyi English said. “Smaller goals are making sure we’re playing each game hard, and focusing on defense.”

English, Walker and fellow senior Kaitlyn Slagus each averaged double-figure points last season.

“I think our team is looking really good,” English said. “We have really skilled players. We all play hard. It’s about making sure we all jell together and stay on the same page.” 

Last year, the Bison struggled early in the season with five new players. Bucknell has only two freshmen on its roster this season, and the Bison went to Europe as a team during the summer.

“We have two freshmen this year and they’ve been really easy to bring a long,” Slagus said. “Last year, we had four freshmen and Ellie Mack coming off her injury. So it was a lot of growing in the preseason, and teaching them about the culture here. The eight practices we had before Europe have been really helpful for smoothing the freshmen in and building chemistry.”

That has led to a more efficient preseason than a year ago, when Bucknell went 7-7 in nonconference play.

“Sometimes it’s hard as a coach to pinpoint what’s been working because we had those extra practices in the summer, or what’s been working because we have five seniors who have been through this,” Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said. “There’s some rationale for both of them. The Europe practices were outstanding. It was a lot of fun. We were able to work on some things. There was a lot of player development.”

Whatever the cause, the Bison feel as though the effect could be an even better season than last year. Bucknell returns 11 of its top 12 players, including five seniors, and Roussell said in many ways his team is stronger than ever.

“We’re probably a better shooting team than we ever have been before,” Roussell said. “We’re more athletic.

“I think this is the most depth we’ve had during my time here. It’s probably the most offensively gifted we’ve been, too.”

The Bison have only one home game in the first month of the season — hosting Quinnipiac in a mid-major showdown on Nov. 11 — with seven games on the road.

“I was fortunate to get that one home game,” Roussell said. “Scheduling is not easy. When you have success — and you have five seniors — people aren’t stupid; people know what you have coming back.

“I think it will be tough, but we’re ready. We have an older team. They’ve been through the grind, so to speak.”

Bucknell is planning to use that early stretch to improve and get ready for the Patriot League slate.

“We want to get some wins, but I think a huge emphasis is going to be taking care of the ball,” Walker said. “I think we can be really good if we handle the ball better.” 

Roussell said the biggest things to focus on from his perspective were defense and being sharp on offense. If the Bison can get those things worked out during the nonconference portion of their schedule, they feel good about their chances in the league.



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