ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After beginning the evening by being honored during a brief Senior Night ceremony, Navy women's basketball team captain Erin Edwards (Hockessin, Del.) tied career highs for three-point field goals made and points scored to lead the Midshipmen to a 60-51 victory over Bucknell Saturday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The victory by the Mids coupled with an Army loss gives Navy the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. Navy will play host to sixth-seeded Colgate Thursday at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall. Tickets, priced at $6 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens, are on sale through the "Tickets" tab on NavySports.com or by calling the Navy Ticket Office Monday at 1-800-US4-NAVY.
"This was an important win for us," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "It seemed we had lost some confidence lately (Navy entered the game on a three-game losing streak). I thought we were a little tight before the game. We had great preparation for the game again and I knew the players were going to give great efforts; it just came down to execution and having the confidence to hit shots."
Navy (15-13, 8-6 Patriot League) led for the final 17:30 of the first half and at one point had stretched its advantage out to double figures at 21-11 with 8:39 remaining in the half. However, the Bison (5-24, 3-11) would close the half on an 18-9 run to pull to within one point of the Mids, 30-29, at the break.
Navy connected on 50 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half and only turned the ball over five times in the first 20 minutes of play. Bucknell shot 40 percent from the floor and committed 10 turnovers, including three shot clock violations. However, the Bison fought back into the game through its work on the glass. Bucknell held a 21-11 edge over Navy on the boards, which included grabbing 12 offensive rebounds and limiting Navy to just seven defensive caroms.
Bucknell continued its strong play early in the second half as the Bison tallied the first field goal of the frame to take a 31-30 lead. Edwards answered on Navy's next possession with her three-pointer of the night to give the lead back to the Mids. A steal and layup by Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) quickly gave the Mids a 35-31 lead, which was promptly cut in half on a layup from Bucknell's Lindsay Horbatuck.
Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) grabbed an offensive rebound on Navy's next possession and was fouled while attempting the putback. She made 1-of-2 attempts from the line to give Navy a three-point lead. A turnover by the Bison was followed by Geif again being fouled while attempting a shot. This time she made both attempts to stretch the Navy lead out to 38-33. Geif then snared a defensive rebound, which led to Kara Pollinger (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) being fouled while attempting a shot on Navy's ensuing trip with the ball. She too converted both of her foul shots to expand the lead out to 40-33. Both teams came away empty on their respective next possession, then Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.) grabbed a defensive rebound on one end of the court before drilling a three-point field goal attempt on the other to boost Navy's cushion out to 10 points at 43-33 with 13:34 remaining on the clock.
Bucknell whittled the margin down to eight points at 45-37, then Edwards drilled three-point field goals -- the 99th and 100th of her career, respectively -- within a span of 45 seconds to give Navy a 51-37 lead with 10:50 left in the game.
"We think the world of Erin and are really going to miss her next year," said Pemper. "It was kind of poetic that she hit those three-pointers to extend the lead and give us the win."
The Mids started the second half by connecting on 5-of-9 field goal attempts and turning the ball over just once. Navy's offense went into a little lull over the next seven minutes as it missed all six shots it took and committed seven turnovers in that span. That allowed Bucknell to chip away at the margin between the teams and close to within six points at 53-47 with 4:49 showing on the clock. Pollinger ended the drought by hitting a short jumper to give Navy a 55-47 lead with 3:56 remaining in the game. Both teams failed to score on back-to-back possessions before Bauer grabbed an offensive rebound and connected on the putback to give Navy a 57-47 cushion with 3:05 left on the clock. The closest Bucknell would get to the Mids in the waning minutes was eight points.
After being dominated on the glass in the first half, Navy held a 21-14 edge in rebounding in the second half. This included a 14-6 advantage in rebounds on Bucknell's offensive end of the court. That helped negate the fact that Navy turned the ball over 10 times in the second half while forcing Bucknell into seven turnovers. However, the Mids scored 16 points off of those Bucknell turnovers for the game while Bucknell accrued 13 points following the turnovers it forced Navy into.
Navy's shooting cooled off to 36.4 percent in the second half, but the Mids held the Bison to a 23.1-percent effort from the field after halftime.
Edwards connected on 4-of-5 three-point field goal attempts and 5-of-7 shots from the field in all to lead Navy with 15 points. It is the third time this season and the fourth time in her career she has made four three-point field goals in a game. Her 15 points tonight tied her career-high effort that she set last year in a game against Colgate.
"I'm very happy that we could come away with a win tonight," said Edwards. "It has been a rough last few games, but tonight was a new start for us. It was important for us to go into the tournament with some confidence. This just gives us a little extra confidence.
"We knew Bucknell was going to double-down on Jade. That's what they did last time. It is awesome playing with someone like Jade. The defense really collapses on her and she had some nice kick-outs to us on the outside to free us up to shoot."
Joining Edwards in double figures was Geif, who tallied 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Pollinger, who was 4-of-5 from the floor to end the game with 11 points, three assists and one turnover in 34 minutes of play.
Bucknell was led in scoring by Alyssa Dunn and Shelby Romine, who scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Horbatuck snared a game-high 10 rebounds.
The winner of the Navy-Colgate game will face the winner of the No. 7 Bucknell at No. 2 Lehigh game. The other half of the bracket has top-seeded American playing host to No. 8 Lafayette and No. 5 seeded Holy Cross play at No. 4 Army. Each game of the tournament will be played at the home of the higher-seeded team in each pairing.
This will be the third consecutive season that Navy will open the tournament against Colgate. The Mids posted a 69-50 win over the Raiders in 2010 and won a 55-36 decision last season in Annapolis.
The home team won both of the Navy-Colgate games this season.
Additional notes from the night include Navy ending the Patriot League season with a winning record for a school-best fourth consecutive season. Only the Mids, American and Lehigh have compiled winning Patriot League regular season records in each of the last four seasons. Also, Navy has now won eight consecutive Senior Night games in Annapolis.