LEWISBURG, Pa. – Hans Brase and T.J. Bray scored 15 points apiece and combined for six of Princeton’s 10 3-pointers, leading the visiting Tigers past Bucknell 66-53 before a Thanksgiving Weekend crowd of 3,011 at Sojka Pavilion on Saturday night. Chris Hass scored a career-high 15 points and Cameron Ayers added 14 for the Bison, who dropped their second straight to fall to 3-4 on the season.
Princeton won its fourth straight and improved to 5-1 on the season, with the lone loss a 70-67 setback at Butler on Nov. 16. Bray also had nine rebounds and Brase added seven assists for the Tigers, who broke open a four-point game with a 15-5 run in the latter stages of the second half.
It was a defensive struggle for most of the night, as both teams shot under 40 percent from the field. Bucknell and Princeton both finished with 20 made field goals, but the difference came from 3-point distance, where the Tigers held a 30-3 scoring advantage. Princeton went 10-for-25 from the arc, including three daggers in the final 6:12, while Bucknell was 1-for-11. The Bison came into the game ranked third in the country in 3-point percentage (.471).
“Give a lot of credit to Princeton, they executed when they needed to and they defended us very well,” said head coach Dave Paulsen after the game. “But from my vantage point, this was a very disappointing performance. We have had games this year where we looked pretty offensively and there was great energy. Tonight we struggled to score, and that affected our energy in the other direction. We let missed shots affect our psyche, and that is very uncharacteristic of a Bucknell team. We have to learn and grow and find a way to respond.”
Bucknell came up with plenty of defensive stops in the early going, and buckets in the lane by Dom Hoffman and Brian Fitzpatrick keyed a 5-0 run that put the Bison ahead 18-10 nearly 11 minutes into the game.
Princeton shot back with a 12-2 run, capped by back-to-back treys by Brase, and recaptured the lead at 22-20 with 4:17 left. The Tigers outscored Bucknell 20-9 over the last 8:47 of the half and led 30-27 at the break.
Layups by Steven Kaspar and Ayers surrounded a 1-for-2 trip to the line by Kaspar, and the Bison swung back in front 32-30 early in the second period. But Princeton recaptured the lead for good with an 8-0 run, consisting of four free throws and two Brase layups.
A 3-pointer by Bray stretched Princeton’s advantage to eight points at 47-39 with 10:14 left, but the Bison crept within 48-44 on a tip-in by Hass. Jimmy Sherburne answered with a driving layup, and after a missed layup at the other end, Will Barrett drove the lane to push the margin right back to eight.
Bucknell trailed by nine after Hass fed Fitzpatrick for a layup. Princeton had only five offensive rebounds all night, but one of them came after a miss at the other end, and Bray capped a 61-second possession with a 3-pointer that made it a 60-48 game with 3:10 to play.
Fitzpatrick made 1 of 2 at the foul line, and then Sherburne beat the shot clock with his only trey of the night to put the game out of reach.
The Bison shot 35.7 percent from the field overall, 28.6 percent in the second half. They came into the game shooting 50.6 percent as a team. Princeton shot 38.5 percent, but half of the Tigers’ baskets were threes. Princeton also outscored Bucknell 16-12 from the foul line.
Bucknell finished with a 36-35 rebounding advantage, led by seven boards by Hoffman.
The Bison saw their eight-game home winning streak come to an end. This was their first double-digit home setback since a 70-53 loss to Army on Feb. 28, 2009.
Bucknell returns to action on Wednesday at Kent State at 7 p.m.