By Logan Moyer (@ByLoganMoyer)
LEWISBURG — The plan for the Saint Joseph’s women this season has been simple – get the ball into the post and dominate.
It was no different on Tuesday night, when the Hawks (6-0) scored 46 points in the paint on their way to a commanding 71-46 non-conference win over Bucknell (2-5) at the Sojka Pavilion.
Reigning First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection Talya Brugler was a big part of that domination, scoring 23 points and making 11-of-15 shots from the field. All 11 of the forward’s makes were from within the paint. Fellow forward Laura Ziegler also had a strong night, adding 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“I’m just making sure that I’m staying above 50% from the field,” Brugler said. “I would just say that I’m efficient, consistently moving around a lot and just trying to finish a lot around the basket. Just trying to put our team in successful positions.”
St. Joe's junior Talya Brugler scored 23 points against Bucknell on Tuesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
“When you have that one-two punch with these two, it really provides balance,” added St. Joe’s coach Cindy Griffin. “It’s really important because they’re high percentage shots, and they’re high percentage players that can make those shots.”
Since arriving on Hawk Hill, Brugler’s always been a solid scorer. She averaged just over 10 points per game in her freshman season and nearly 17 last season as a sophomore. This year, with more talent than ever around her, she’s finding it easier to facilitate the offense as a whole.
“It makes (life) so much easier,” she said. “Opening things up for me inside and outside, also just giving me more options. If I don’t have something in the post, I can pass it on. I know my teammates are going to knock down the three or make something good happen.”
"It opens (the offense) up a lot,” she added. “If they take away option A, we have B, C and D. Anybody on our team is a threat, and it’s really showing these past few games.”
Tuesday night’s game meant a little bit extra for Brugler. She’s spent quite a lot of time at the Sojka Pavilion, as her older sister Tessa played for the Bison from 2017-2021.
“It was fun, especially on my sister’s old court,” she said. “I’ve been in Sojka a lot, I’m very familiar with it here. It was just funny.”
Ziegler was a less efficient 4-for-11 from the field, but the Denmark native still proved a strong second option for the red-hot Brugler.
“Laura and I work really well together,” Brugler said. “We just have a really strong connection we know where each other is going to be to make a good pass.”
“She’s gotten stronger (since getting on campus),” Griffin said of Ziegler. “She’s understanding what we’re trying to do. I think that experience is helpful, but I just think she’s embracing it and she’s gotten a lot stronger.”
Ziegler’s performance was good enough for her fifth double-double of the season, despite not playing at all in the fourth quarter.
“Every basketball player wants to play, but in a game like this, it’s kind of a goal that you want to do so well that you don’t have to play the whole game,” Ziegler said. “Like you saw today, we have so many people coming in and contributing.”
The Hawks recorded 22 assists as team; five players had at least three. Guard Julia Nystrom led the way with six.
The Hawks’ frontcourt domination doesn’t end on the offensive end of the floor. Brugler held Emma Theodorsson, Bucknell’s leading scorer, to 0 points on 0-9 shooting on Tuesday night. As a team, the Bison were limited to just 26 points in the paint.
“The defense was tremendous,” Griffin said. “We did a really good job of guarding their actions and really just putting a lot of pressure on them.”
The perimeter defense wasn’t too bad either. The Hawks held the Bison to just 18% shooting from beyond the arc; the Bison didn’t make a 3-pointer until the final quarter.
The Hawks have struggled to get off to strong starts in many of their games so far this season. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday, as they outscored the Bison 18-9 in the first quarter after starting the game on a furious 11-2 run.
“It’s been a point of emphasis for us to come out strong,” Brugler said. “In the past few games, we’ve kind of not had a great start so it is nice to make them (take) the first timeout and come out strong.”
Speaking of strong starts, it’s the second straight year that the Hawks have opened the season with a win streak. Last year, they started the season 9-0 before finishing just over .500 in conference play. Halfway through their non-conference slate this year, the Hawks are looking to keep improving.
“I think we’re scoring a lot more points than we were at this time last year,” Griffin said. “I think you’re getting it from all five positions, from the most part. That’s been phenomenal for us and I think that’s the difference.”
“I think it’s just the experience of knowing what that tastes like and knowing how badly we want to beat the 9-0 from last year and go into conference play with more steam behind us,” Brugler said.
The Hawks return home on Saturday to host North Florida, who is off to a 1-6 start to the season.