Lehigh, Lafayette women hoping for Patriot League coronation

Lafayette and Lehigh are forever married by location, residing a mere 17 miles from each other in the Lehigh Valley.

Entering the final week of the Patriot League women's basketball season, the Leopards and Mountain Hawks are connected in the traditional sense of the centuries-long institution.

They have combined to have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Last month, as Lehigh was in the midst of its longest losing streak in six years, coach Sue Troyan reached into her old tapes to borrow an offense she used midway through her 18-year tenure.

After the skid stretched to five consecutive setbacks, the Mountain Hawks turned a corner.

They take a four-game winning streak into the final two regular-season games in Patriot League play — starting Wednesday night at Navy.

Lafayette hadn't finished better than sixth place in the league in 15 years, but showed early signs that the 2012-13 campaign would be different.

The Leopards beat Big East member Pitt in nonconference play. They later topped league power American for their first three-game PL winning streak in five seasons.

That was the new, but Lafayette is back to being blue because they have lost four of their last five since the winning streak — and that victory came against a Bucknell team that has lost seven in a row.

A lot can happen down the stretch, even in the tournament of what is a balanced, unpredictable league.

Lehigh and Lafayette are hoping to be part of a coronation in the league championship game next month.

Troyan and associate head coach Glenn Rigney sat down after a late-January loss to assess what they were doing.

They decided to restructure the offense, going back to a more free-flowing version that has 6-foot-3 freshman Kerry Kinek facing the basket more.

"That has made [Kinek] much more of an offensive threat," Troyan said.

The numbers reflect that. The Central Catholic graduate is averaging 17 points and 13.8 rebounds the last five games.

The new philosophy also created driving lanes for wing players Katie O'Reilly and Becky Guman and eliminated some of the aspects that didn't suit the current rotation.

"It's not rocket science," Troyan joked. "We were horrible at setting screens, so we said, 'Let's just not set screens. Just move.' "

The system exploits the players' strengths, especially Kinek, who has the ability to step out and hit the 3, take somebody off the dribble or post up on the block.

"It gives a lot of people opportunities to score in different ways," Guman added.

With scoring issues all season and mired in a losing streak that included three setbacks by 16 points or more, the Hawks could have packed it in.

 
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