Team huddles
Rick Smith

Women's Basketball

Leopards Close Out Non-Conference Slate at LIU Brooklyn

Lafayette travels to New York on Saturday

Opening Tip
- Lafayette has erased double-digit deficits in three of its last four games as the Leopards came back from 15 last time out against Cornell, but ultimately fell 62-59.
- Sophomore Olivia Martino is red hot, scoring in double-figures each of the last four games. During the stretch she is 16-of-18 from the free throw line.
- Sophomore Natalie Kucowski tallied her sixth double-double of the season and 15th of her career with 10 points and 13 rebounds against the Big Red.
- A season ago, Lafayette cruised to victory against LUI Brooklyn, 69-53, behind Kucowski's 15 points. 
- The Leopards wrap up the non-conference schedule with the Blackhawks and open Patriot League play with Lehigh at Kirby Sports Center on Jan. 3 to open up the 2019 slate.
Scouting LIU Brooklyn
Lehigh defeated the Blackbirds on Dec. 20 as both teams are coming off the same amount of rest around the holiday season. LIU Brooklyn is winless on the year with, but has only played three games on its home court.
The Blackbirds have played two Patriot League opponents on the year, including Lehigh and Army. Both games were decided by double-digits as the Mountain Hawks won, 72-38, and the Black Knights triumphed, 57-42.
Jeydah Johnson is the team's leading scorer, averaging 13.3 ppg while Brandy Thomas is leading the charge on the glass with 11.2 rpg. Thomas is averaging a double-double, adding 12.0 ppg.
LIU Brooklyn is led by third-year head coach Stephanie Del Preore. Prior to LIU, she was the top assistant at Seton Hall from 2013-15.
All-Time Series
The Leopards are a game back in the series as LIU lead 3-2 overall.
The first meeting came in the 2001-02 season and the latest came just last season.
Last Meeting
Just last season, Lafayette defeated the Blackbirds, 69-53 in Easton. Natalie Kucowski nearly posted a double-double with 15 points and eight boards while Olivia Martino came off the bench to score 14.
Drew Freeland had a career-best nine rebounds with four assists. Jeydah Johnson scored a game-high 18 points for LIU Brooklyn with four 3-pointers.
Freeland's Frenzy
Sophomore Drew Freeland poured in a career-high 23 points last time out with a career-best five 3-point field goals. She topped her previous best of 17 points, which she accomplished twice during her freshman campaign.
While the Leopards were ice cold in the first quarter against Cornell, Freeland carried the load scoring all six of Lafayette's first quarter points. She shot 9-of-14 from the field and recorded a pair of steals in the tight loss.
A Different Double-Double
Sophomore Natalie Kucowski recorded her sixth double-double of the season and 15th of her career against the Big Red with 10 points and 13 rebounds. It was just the fifth time she pulled in more rebounds than points while recorded in double-double.
The Comeback Kids
Lafayette has overcome 13-point fourth quarter deficits twice this season, forcing overtime in both and eventually earning victories in each. The Maroon and White has also erased a nine-point deficit in the final 1:09 against Saint Peter's, but ultimately fell on a last second bucket. A similar situation occurred against Cornell, as the Leopards overcame a 15-point deficit to take their first lead with 53 seconds left, but lost the contest.
Overtime triumphs
This is the first time since the 2008-09 campaign that Lafayette has won multiple overtime contests in the same season. The Leopards won their first overtime game since the 2012-13 season, outlasting Albany in double overtime on Dec. 1. They followed that up with another comeback win against Monmouth in extra time.
A Comparison
Lafayette is much improved in a number of areas compared to 2017-18, including the win column. Through 10 games, the Leopards are scoring more efficiently, up from 53.2 ppg to 59.2, shooting better at the free throw line from 65 percent to 70 percent, and free throw makes are up from 7.3 a game to 11.7. Lafayette has been a top notch rebounding team, pulling in 44.2 a contest this season from 39.5 in 2017-18. Rebounding margin has also improved from +0.6 to +6.0.
Last season's overall non-conference record was 4-6 which has already been topped this season with two games to play before hitting Patriot League play.
Free and Easy
The Leopards have shot 20-plus free throws four times already in 2018-19 compared to just one game last season. Against Delaware, Lafayette shot 29 free throws, making 22 in the game. It was the most free throws a Lafayette team attempted and made since Feb. 8, 2017 when the Leopards were 23-of-32 from the Line in an 85-70 win over Holy Cross.
Classroom Success
The 2017-18 Leopards ranked No. 14 among Division I women's basketball programs for team GPA. Lafayette compiled a team GPA of 3.538 last season and were 1-of-2 Patriot League institutions to rank inside the top-25.
Bench Boost
Against Monmouth, the Leopards produced 35 points off the bench. It was the most bench points for Lafayette since the first round of the 2018 Patriot League Tournament against Boston U. when Lafayette set the program record for 3-pointers in a single game with 12 behind Sarah Agnello's six 3-pointers. Alexis Santarelli was also in double-figures off the bench that day with 11 while Agnello poured in 24.
That was also the last time the Maroon and White featured two players off the bench to score in double-digits as Cantwell and Havas were in double-figures against the Hawks.  
My Hero Martino
Sophomore Olivia Martino has scored in double-figures in the Leopards' previous four games, including a career-high 19 points in the double overtime win over Albany. It is the most consecutive games the Lanham, Maryland native has scored 10-plus points. Over the stretch, Martino is 16-of-18 from the free throw line.
Youth Movement
Lafayette did not start an "upperclassman" until the Albany game, as the Leopards featured three sophomores and a pair of freshmen in the starting lineup in eight of the nine games this season. However, the Maroon and White have turned to senior Alex Cantwell and junior Tasha Vipond to be the first and second players off the bench this season. Martino is leading the team at 30.2 minutes per contest.
Windex Wipes
The Leopards are tops in the Patriot League and 22nd nationally in rebounds per game, pulling in 44.2 per contest. Kucowski's 11.6 rpg ranks her third in the League and 15th in all of college basketball. Lafayette is ranked 61st nationally in rebounding margin with a 6.0 advantage on the glass and third in the conference.
Getting Defensive
The Leopards rank inside the top five in the Patriot League in major defensive statistical categories. Lafayette is fifth in scoring defense and 75th nationally (58.7 ppg) and second in opponent field goal percentage and 73rd nationally (36.5 percent), while ranking fourth in the conference in steals per game (7.8).
Returning Points
Lafayette returns nine players from last year's team and 74 percent of its total points production from the 2017-18 season. The Leopards also return four of their five leading scorers in junior Alexis Santarelli (8.0 ppg) and sophomores Drew Feeland (7.2 ppg), Natalie Kucowski (10.9 ppg), and Olivia Martino (7.4 ppg).
The Damon-Olson Effect
The Maroon and White saw drastic improvements in head coach Kia Damon-Olson's first season at the helm. The Leopards topped the Patriot League in 3-point field goal percentage (34.7%), ranked third in rebounding margin (plus-0.5), fourth in rebounds per game (36.4) and free throw percentage (70.8%), and fifth in scoring defense (60.7).
Clutch Cantwell
Senior Alex Cantwell has had the clutch gene this season for the Leopards in crucial moments. Against Saint Peter's, Cantwell scored 10 points in the final minute to tie the game. She also hit back-to-back 3-balls down the stretch against Albany to help the Leopards overcome a 13-point fourth quarter deficit, where they'd eventually win in double overtime. Against Monmouth, the Glen Head, New York native scored 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Maroon and White Debuts
In the season opener, five Leopards made their Lafayette debuts in freshmen Nicole Johnson, Makaila Wilson, Jiselle Havas, and Naomi Ganpo, along with junior Sydney Sabino. All four of the freshmen recorded their first collegiate points in the win. Freshman Becca Margolis made her collegiate debut in the Delaware game, grabbing a rebound in two minutes of action.
Meet the Rookies
Each of last year's three freshmen were key contributors and the five newcomers this season will have big roles to fill, as well.
Naomi Ganpo comes to College Hill by way of Ontario, Canada and is a big time presence in the paint. Standing at 6-3, Ganpo will play a true forward position and play a factor in the rebounding and defensive game while continuing to develop her offensive package.
Jiselle Havas is the southern-most resident on the team hailing from Windermere, Florida, winning two state championships in high school. Havas comes in with the ability to shoot from distance which plays right into the strategy of the team.
Nicole Johnson was a four-year starter at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey. She is a true point guard and brings speed to both sides of the ball.
Becca Margolis was a three-time all-league performer in high school on the hardwood while starting all four years on the basketball and soccer teams. 
Makaila Wilson was a state champion at Penfield High School in Fairport, New York and brings size at 6-foot. Wilson has the ability to play multiple positions and started all four years on the basketball court and soccer field in high school.
No Captains... Leaders
When head coach Kia Damon-Olson took over, she introduced the Lafayette Women's Basketball Leadership Council, consisting of one student-athlete from each class. This year's representatives are senior Alex Cantwell, junior Alexis Santarelli, sophomore Drew Freeland, and freshman Nicole Johnson
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