ALBANY, N.Y. – Ben Brackney canned six of Bucknell’s 14 3-pointers en route to a career-high 22 points, and the Bison buckled down on defense in the second half in a wire-to-wire 77-64 victory at Albany on Saturday night at SEFCU Arena. Cameron Ayers added 15 points and Steven Kaspar had 11 points, six rebounds and nine assists as the Bison improved to 3-2 on the season.
The Bison made 10 of their first 12 3-pointers of the night and 14 of 21 overall. They led 51-38 at the half, but coach Dave Paulsen was just as pleased with his team’s second-half defensive effort as he was with the first-half shooting onslaught.
“We spread the floor well, found the open man and knocked down some threes to get us going,” said Paulsen. “We have an unselfish team and we have been doing a good job finding the open man. We are going to win some games making 14 threes, but our defense in the second half was just as important. Albany is a very tough team to guard, and we didn’t do a very good job in the first half. It was great to hold them to 26 points in the second half.”
Brian Fitzpatrick was Bucknell’s fourth double-digit scorer with 10 points. Fitzpatrick even got in on the 3-point action, going 2-for-2 from the arc. Those were his first two treys since his freshman year at Penn in 2009-10. The Bison also received outstanding bench minutes from Ryan Frazier (7 points), Dom Hoffman (6 points) and Ryan Hill (4 assists, 1 steal).
After that unconscious 10-for-14 3-point shooting display led to a 51-38 halftime lead, the Bison swapped ends and quickly got treys from Brackney and Chris Hass to open up its largest lead of 17 points at 57-40.
The Bison did start to cool off, however, and a 9-2 Albany run trimmed their lead down to 59-49. Fitzpatrick snapped a four-minute scoring drought with his second 3-pointer of the game, this one coming off an inbounds play.
Albany pulled within 10 on two more occasions but could never get its deficit into single digits. Brackney’s sixth trifecta of the night was a big one with 7:30 left, stretching the lead back to 67-54.
Sam Rowley answered with a 3-point play, but two tough shots in the lane by Ayers and a pretty reverse layup by Hoffman off a Kaspar feed comprised a key 6-0 spurt that pushed the lead back to 16 at 73-57 with 2:59 left.
Albany scored five straight to pull within 73-62, but Frazier snuck free for a layup on a sideline out-of-bounds play with 1:03 remaining. Kaspar made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 45 seconds left, and after the Bison forced a turnover, Albany called off the press and Bucknell posted the 13-point win.
Bucknell simply could not miss for the better part of the first half. Kaspar hit a left-corner three on the opening possession of the night. Hass followed it with a right-corner trey the next time down the floor to make it 6-0, and the Bison would never trail in the game.
Brackney canned a 3-pointer to give the Bison their first 10-point lead at 23-13, and then Frazier followed with a trey a minute later. Fitzpatrick made his first 3-pointer as a Bison to make it 29-15 with 10:14 left in the half.
Brackney summed up Bucknell’s shooting accuracy a few minutes later, when he swished a three from the left wing that made the net flip over the rim. The very next time down the floor, Brackney took another shot from almost the same spot that slipped through the small hole in the messed-up net. That gave the Bison its first of two 16-point leads in the half.
After Bucknell finally missed a couple of 3-point tries, a 3-point play by Peter Hooley brought Albany within 49-38 with 30 seconds left in the half. But a sweet backdoor pass from Kaspar to Brackney just before the buzzer gave the Bison a 51-38 lead at the break. It was Bucknell’s first 50-point first half since Dec. 17, 2005 against Cornell.
Bucknell shot 54.7 percent for the game, its third time in five games over 50 percent this season. The Bison had 20 assists on 29 made field goals, with Kaspar equaling his career high with nine assists.
Hooley scored 21 points, Rowley tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds, and point guard D.J. Evans scored 13 points for the Great Danes, who fell to 2-3 after a 2-0 start. Albany shot 43.8 percent for the game but just 36.4 percent in the second half.
The Great Danes went 18-for-24 from the free-throw line, while the Bison were just 5-for-8.
Bucknell wraps up a three-game road trip on Tuesday at Mount St. Mary’s at 7 p.m.