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Bucknell earns second automatic NCAA bid

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- Amanda Brown scored 14 points to lead Bucknell to a 57-45 upset of Holy Cross and the Patriot League title on Wednesday night.

The fifth-seeded Bison (16-15) earned their second automatic NCAA tournament bid after losing twice to second-seeded Holy Cross (19-13) in the regular season. Bucknell last took the Patriot League title in 2002, beating Holy Cross.

Bucknell took firm control with a 19-4 run over the last nine minutes of the first half to lead 31-17 at intermission. Paced by 3-pointers from Brown and Lauren Schober, Bucknell was able to pull away with a pair of eight- and nine-point spurts sandwiched around two free throws by Holy Cross.

Bison coach Kathy Fedorjaka said taking Holy Cross' primary scorers Bethany O'Dell, who scored seven points, and Briana McFadden, who had six points, out of their games with a mixture of defenses was key.

"We knew we had to play smart," she said. "We had to force their hand somewhere else. We had to bring pressure and made adjustments throughout the half."

Bucknell got 13 points from Kesha Champion, and Cosima Higham and Schober each scored 10.

"We were a step behind. They beat us to loose balls and we didn't shoot well. When we were able to get the ball inside, they played well defensively," Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons Jr. said.

The Crusaders shot over 23 percent in the first half, compared to Bucknell's 40 percent, and their shooting woes continued into the second half.

Holy Cross missed its first seven shots until Alyssa May stole a pass for a lay-up that ended an almost 11-minute field-goal drought.

"We were pumped [at halftime], but we knew they were going to throw a punch," Fedorjaka said. "We weathered that."

May, who led the Crusaders with 11 second-half points and seven rebounds, made it a nine-point game with 6:37 remaining with a 3-pointer and then cut the deficit to seven, 43-36, on a pair of free throws before Bucknell charged back with seven straight points in 92 seconds.

"Alyssa tried to get us back in it," Gibbons said, "but we couldn't get the big hoop to get it down to five."

Holy Cross shot 29 percent from the field overall, compared with 41.5 percent for Bucknell.