NOTE: The next Bucknell men's basketball Backcourt Club luncheon will take place on Thursday at noon at Matty's Sporthouse Grill in Lewisburg. The $10 admission includes lunch and the chance to hear head coach Nathan Davis, assistant coach John Griffin, and Bison players chat about the season.
BALTIMORE, Md. – Patriot League scoring and rebounding leader Zach Thomas recorded 25 points and 12 rebounds, lifting Bucknell to another come-from-behind road win, 78-70 at Loyola on Wednesday night at Reitz Arena. Bucknell’s fifth straight win, coupled with a loss by Boston University to American, gives the Bison sole possession of first place in the Patriot League.
Now 12-8 overall and 6-1 in the conference, Bucknell has won five straight road games and is 4-0 on the road in league play. Two of those came in a span of three nights this week at Colgate and Loyola, and both came in similar fashion. The Bison struggled with turnovers in the first half but stayed in the game with solid defense, then took it over late.
Nana Foulland added 14 points and eight rebounds, Stephen Brown had 12 points, five assists and three steals, and Kimbal Mackenzie had a season-high 11 points in his third game back from injury. Bucknell went 10-for-10 at the foul line in the final 1:18 to seal its 12th win in the last 16.
“We are very pleased to get this win,” said coach Nathan Davis. “There is no such thing as style points when it comes to winning on the road in the league. Loyola is a tough team to defend, and I thought we did a good job guarding them for the most part. We would obviously like to take better care of the ball, but we made big plays when we needed them in the second half.”
Bucknell came into the game ranked 12th in the nation in second-half scoring at 44.1 points per game, and the Bison hung 50 in this one after trailing 33-28 at the break. The Bison shot 55.6 percent from the field and hit 19 of 21 free throws in the second stanza.
Loyola (5-13, 3-4 PL), which had been 5-2 at home this season, led by as many as nine late in the first half. But the Bison held them scoreless over the final 2:20 while scoring the final four points of the period, then they tallied the first six of the second half, taking a 34-33 lead when Brown came up with a steal and layup with a defender draped all over him.
That would be the first of six second-half lead changes -- there were 11 in the game along with eight ties – as the momentum switched back and forth numerous times. Walker, who was coming off a 43-point game in Loyola’s win over Lafayette on Sunday, tried to take over for the Greyhounds. He made two contested, step-back 3-pointers as well as a runner in the lane in a span of just 1:21. Two free throws by Andrew Kostecka put Loyola in front 63-62 with 4:51 to play.
The Bison would lock down on Walker the rest of the way, as he was limited to two free throws in the final 5:45. Thomas answered with two charity tosses to put Bucknell back in front with 4:26 left, and the Bison would lead it the rest of the way.
Mackenzie rebounded his own miss and fed Foulland for a layup, and then after a Walker miss, Brown hit a pull-up from the foul line for a 68-63 lead.
Bucknell got a key defensive stop in a three-point game in the final 90 seconds. Bruce Moore earned a strong rebound while being knocked to the ground, and then he made both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 70-65 lead with 1:18 left.
Thomas’s free throws stretched the margin to seven with 51 seconds to go. Bucknell had a nervous moment when a turnover against the press led to a Kostecka layup that cut it to 72-68 with 28 seconds left. But the Bison were able to inbound and hit free throws to seal the verdict. Mackenzie hit four big ones, and Thomas closed out the scoring.
After going down 4-0, Bucknell rattled off 12 straight points, seven from Mackenzie. But the Bison struggled to hold on to the ball and lost the lead thanks in part to 12 first-half turnovers.
The Bison managed just one field goal, a Thomas 3-pointer, in a six-minute span while Loyola went on a 17-3 run. A key exchange occurred at the 5:07 mark, when the Greyhounds scored five points in one possession. As Chuck Champion hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, the Bison were called for a flagrant foul while jostling for a potential rebound. Brent Holcombe made the two free throws for a 29-22 lead, and then Cam Gregory scored in the lane to cap the run and put Loyola up by nine.
Walker finished with 21 points on 8-for-23 shooting, 3-for-10 from the arc. Gregory added 12 points and eight rebounds, and Isaiah Hart and Kostecka added 11 each. Kostecka also had six of Loyola’s 14 steals.
The Greyhounds shot 43.3 percent from the field and went 6-for-18 from the arc and 12-for-18 from the foul line.
Bucknell overcame 22 turnovers by shooting 49.1 percent to go with a strong 22-for-26 at the foul line. Thomas, the national leader in made free throws, went 12-for-13 at the stripe en route to his ninth double-double and 12th 20-point game of the season.
Led by Thomas and Foulland, Bucknell piled up a 40-25 rebounding edge and blocked eight shots. The Bison also forced 17 turnovers of their own and only trailed 33-27 in points off turnovers.
With their 51 points in this one, the senior class of Brown, Foulland and Thomas went over the combined 4,000-point mark in their careers. Foulland (1,543) moved past Jaye Andrews into sixth place on Bucknell’s career scoring list. Brown (1,048) also moved up a spot, jumping Gordon Mboya for 36th place.
Moore, a Baltimore-area native, finished with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting from the field. The Bison also welcomed Avi Toomer back to the lineup after a 16-game injury absence. The sophomore played 14 minutes and hit a big second-half 3-pointer on his lone shot attempt.
Bucknell returns to action on Saturday at home against Holy Cross. The noon contest will be televised locally on WQMY.
Thoughts from Coach Davis on tonight’s win at Loyola. pic.twitter.com/gSOzK3fpJn— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) January 18, 2018
More from Coach Davis as the Bison begin prepping for the Holy Cross game Saturday at Sojka Pavilion. pic.twitter.com/O2KoocQH8d— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) January 18, 2018