Kouzan's lights out shooting sinks Lakers 74-67
It's the games like these that display just how much the SUNY Potsdam women's basketball team has turned it around in just one season.
Senior tri-captain Jessica Kouzan (Webster, N.Y. / Webster-Schroeder) scored a career-best 29 points, continually answering the call in crunch time by using both her size advantage down low and outside range when needed as the visiting Bears won its first conference game of the season by downing Oswego State 74-67 Saturday afternoon at Max Ziel Gym.
The result is in stark contrast to what occurred just a season ago when the Lakers defeated the Bears by an average margin of victory of 27.5 points in two meetings.
The re-tooled Bears (3-3 overall, 1-1 SUNYAC) were uplifted by the hot hand of Kouzan, who hit a scorching 12-of-19 from the floor including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. For good measure, she collected eight rebounds in 37 minutes of play.
Whenever Potsdam seemed to need a big basket, Kouzan was there as she scored eight of the Bears' final 12 points. With the Bears trailing by a point, the 5-foot-10 forward worked inside for a bucket to help Potsdam retake a 62-61 lead with 4:36 remaining in the game.
"She [Kouzan] really came out in the second half and made shots," said ninth-year Potsdam coach Tara Ruckh. "It's really about just not giving up. She started to come out of it a little during the last game. When you're a shooter, you need to see a few go through the rim. That carried over to today. And, another great thing was that she crashed the boards today too. She's a senior and we are relying on her to do a lot of things, but she's getting it done."
Again, with the lead cut to one, Kouzan drove inside for a layup and then followed that up with a dagger of a 3-pointer to give Potsdam a five-point lead with just 54 seconds left. She would add a free throw in the closing seconds to finish with a game-high 29 points. Her previous high was 24 points in a 78-77 season-opening win at Utica College on November 16.
Unsung hero Bailey Weigel (East Amherst, N.Y. / Williamsville East) provided another important workmanlike effort by posting her third—and second straight—double double with 17 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Weigel effectively created havoc defensively as well by notching her third straight game and fourth overall game of recording at least two blocked shots.
"Both Bailey and Jess had four offensive rebounds apiece, so that's huge," coach Ruckh said. "Now, we're starting to make things happen. Between the second half and today, I thought we played great. I couldn't ask for better leadership. Once one person hits a shot, it snowballs and all of a sudden, everybody starts hitting shots."
Potsdam held a 37-36 lead at halftime. The Bears showed high energy to begin the second half with a 9-0 run to take a 10-point advantage. Potsdam was aggressive from the onset with Chenice Russell (Moira, N.Y. / Brushton-Moira) drawing a foul and sinking a pair of free throws. Weigel then found senior Hannah Kmiecinski (Webster, N.Y. / Webster-Thomas) for a layup, junior Veronica Sapp (Potsdam, N.Y. / Potsdam) drove in for a basket and Kouzan connected from beyond the arc to force Oswego State to call a timeout.
The Lakers (3-3 overall, 0-2 SUNYAC) would go on a run of their own to tie it at 56 on a Jenn Robbins' 3-pointer forcing a Potsdam timeout. Robbins finished with 13 points. Heather Hebert led all Lakers' scorers with 14 and also had nine rebounds and two steals.
Coach Ruckh went to the larger lineup toward the latter half of the second half electing to put Russell back into the game. Kouzan and freshman Meghan Driscoll (Troy, N.Y. / Troy) each scored in the paint to put Potsdam up 64-61 with 4:13 left.
"It was a fun game to watch," coach Ruckh said. "We went on a run and they came back. They're a good team. But, we kept doing the things that have made us successful."
Potsdam will play next Sunday, Dec. 15 at St. Lawrence University at 2 p.m. in a nonconference tilt.