WEST POINT, N.Y. - Loyola University Maryland outscored second-seeded Bucknell University, 36-16 in the second and third quarters to build a lead of as many as 20 Friday night, and the third-seeded Greyhounds advanced to their first-ever Patriot League Championship Game with a 65-53 semifinal win over the Bison.
With the win, Loyola will face the No. 1-seed U.S. Military Academy on its home floor Saturday, March 12, at 6 p.m., for the Patriot League title. The game will air live on CBS Sports Network.
Smith shattered her previous scoring-high of 12 set earlier this season against UMBC; her 20-point effort was just the fifth time in her Loyola career that she has scored in double figures.
A low-scoring first quarter saw Bucknell (24-7 overall) lead, 10-9, after the first 10 minutes, but a Lauren Daugherty three 1:12 into the second stanza put the Greyhounds (16-15) in front, 12-10.
Nearly three minutes later, Bucknell, which went 17-1 in conference play and was the 2015-2016 Patriot League regular-season co-champions, tied the score at 14-14 on a Kyi English basket, but Smith hit her first three of the night on the Greyhounds’ next possession to put Loyola in front for good.
English scored the Bison’s next four points, two free throws and a layup that bookended a Lisa Mirarchi three for Loyola, but another Smith trey with 3:21 left in the half gave the Greyhounds a five-point advantage.
Marshall scored the last five of the first half with a jumper at 1:22 and a three just four seconds before the halftime buzzer, extending the Greyhounds’ advantage to 10, 31-21.
Less than five minutes into the third quarter, Claire DeBoer scored in the paint to pull Bucknell within eight, 34-26, but her points were the last of the period for the Bison.
Loyola closed the third on an 11-0 run that saw it go up 19, 45-26 on a Bri Betz-White bucket with 51 ticks on the clock.
English scored on the first possession of the fourth quarter, snapping a 5-minute, 41-second Bison scoreless stretch, but a Betz-White free throw at 8:50 and a Smith layup with 8:05 to go in regulation pushed the Greyhounds’ lead to 20, 48-28.
Bucknell scored nine of the next 10 points to pull within 12, 49-37, on a Kate Walker interior basket at 4:32, but Betz-White and Smith hit pairs of free throws, and Smith scored a basket in the paint, over the next 90 seconds to nudge the lead back to 15.
Walker made a three for Bucknell with just over two minutes left, cutting its deficit to 11, but Loyola made 8-of-10 free throws over the next 1:17 to keep the lead above 10.
In addition to the 42 combined points from Marshall and Smith, Betz-White scored 10, and Mirarchi had seven. Smith and Jeneh Perry both grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Greyhounds.
DeBoer led Bucknell with 15 points, while Jacquie Klotz had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The title game appearance will Loyola’s first since joining the Patriot League in 2013-2014. The Greyhounds last played for a conference crown in 2011 as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and their last league title came in 1995 as a member of the MAAC.