EASTON, Pa. – Zach Thomas recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Kimbal Mackenzie also tallied 14 to help Bucknell roll past Lafayette 78-55 at Kirby Sports Center on Wednesday evening. The Bison closed the first half of Patriot League play with a 16-6 overall mark and an 8-1 record in Patriot League play, and they maintained their two-game lead atop the league standings.
Stephen Brown added 11 points and eight assists, and John Azzinaro provided a big lift off the bench with 11 points, four rebounds and a steal in 12 minutes. The Bison have won four straight and eight of their last nine, and they are now 10 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season.
Lafayette threw two different zone defense looks at the Bison early in the game, in an effort to collapse around red-hot center Nana Foulland. Bucknell made the Leopards pay by burying one open look after another from the 3-point arc. The team’s first five field goals of the night came from long distance. Five different players hit treys in the first half alone.
Bucknell went 9-for-21 from the 3-point arc in the first half – and just 3-for-14 on 2-point attempts – and led 40-23 at the break. They cruised home from there, leading by as many as 30 in the second half.
In addition to the early 3-point flurry, defense and rebounding were major keys to victory for the Bison. They piled up a season-high 22 offensive rebounds, leading to 21 second-chance points, and finished with a 53-41 edge on the glass.
Defensively, Bucknell forced 18 turnovers and held the Leopards to 34.4 percent shooting. Typically a dangerous 3-point shooting team, the Leopards finished 5-for-22 from long range in this one. All-Patriot League guard Nick Lindner, who was coming off a 23-point game against Lehigh on Saturday, was held to three points, while leading scorer Matt Klinewski was limited to 10, more than seven below his season average.
"I thought we were extremely active on defense tonight," said head coach Nathan Davis. "We had a lot of deflections and steals, and for the most part we were in the right position against their shooters. Lafayette is always a tough team to defend and they can make up a deficit quickly with their shooting ability. Offensively, we obviously hit some shots early to get out in front. Even though our percentages weren't great, we made a concerted effort to get to the glass and get second and third chances."
The lead was just one at 11-10 when treys by Matt O'Reilly and Mackenzie kicked off a 17-3 run. Azzinaro was big during that stretch with six points and three rebounds, and his fastbreak layup after a Brown steal pushed the lead to 28-13.
After back-to-back treys by Hunter Janacek cut into the lead, the Bison scored nine straight to go up 37-19. Mackenzie hit the ninth trey of the half with 57 seconds left to give Bucknell its largest lead of 19 points at 40-21, before Kyle Stout tipped in an air-balled 3-point attempt at the buzzer for the Leopards.
Lafayette then scored seven of the first nine of the second half to get within 12, but the Bison answered with 11 straight to erase any doubt. Thomas highlighted the sequence with a steal near midcourt, then he made a nice no-look pass in transition to Mackenzie for a 3-point play. Brown followed with a trey, and a Thomas layup made it 53-30.
Bucknell pushed the lead up to as many as 30 after a 22-2 run, doing much of the damage at the free-throw line as Lafayette committed 10 fouls in the first seven minutes of the second stanza.
The Bison cooled off from long range as the game progressed, finishing 11-for-34 from the arc and finishing at 31.4 percent overall. They did have a strong night at the foul line, hitting 25 of 31 (.806).
The collapsing zone and a spot of foul trouble limited Foulland to 21 minutes. He hit 3 of 5 shots and finished with eight points and four rebounds. D.J. MacLeay (4 points, 7 rebounds), Bruce Moore (eight points, five rebounds) and Nate Sestina (two points, seven rebounds) helped pick up the slack with strong play off the bench.
With his eight assists, Brown moved past Dan Blankenship and Bryan Cohen into ninth place on Bucknell’s career list with 316.
Janacek led Lafayette (6-14, 2-7) with 11 points. Stout had nine points and 12 rebounds.
The Bison are back in action on Saturday at Army West Point at 3 p.m.