LEWISBURG, Pa. – Tony Wroblicky logged 24 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and five assists to lead American to a 67-57 victory over Bucknell in the Patriot League opener for both sides on Thursday night at Sojka Pavilion. Chris Hass scored a career-high 18 points and Cameron Ayers had 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals for the Bison, who saw an eight-game winning streak against American come to an end.
John Schoof and Darius Gardner added 11 points each for American, which shot 53.8 percent thanks in large part to a number of back-door layups and the 6’10” Wroblicky’s 8-for-12 work down low. The Eagles (5-7, 1-0) had been 1-11 all-time against Bucknell at Sojka Pavilion, but they never trailed in this one after getting out to a 9-0 lead.
Bucknell (5-7, 0-1) made a late run after falling behind by as many as 17 points midway through the second half. A 3-pointer by Hass capped a 12-0 run and pulled the Bison within five at 47-42 with 6:35 to play. American went back up by 10, but then back-to-back 3-pointers by Ryan Frazier and Ben Brackney cut it to four at 58-54 with 48 seconds to play.
The Bison could not get any closer, however, as American hit eight straight free throws surrounding two Bison misses and an intentional foul.
“Give credit to American, they played very well tonight,” said head coach Dave Paulsen after the game. “Tony Wroblicky is a load down there, and they made their free throws down the stretch. They are a challenging team to come back against. They work the clock and then go to Wroblicky or hit a back-door.
“From our perspective it is a disappointing loss all around. We have not yet – and I emphasize ‘yet’ because we are going to keep working at it – learned how to play through adversity. Some guys are reacting to adversity by being a little too aggressive and forcing things, and then some guys are being a little too passive. We had three good practices leading up to tonight, and this group is working hard, but we need guys to be consistent at both ends every night.”
After missing its first six shots of the night and falling behind by nine early, Bucknell pulled within four after Hass maded two free throws and a 3-pointer. But Schoof hit a left-corner three as the shot clock expired on the next possession, sparking a 7-1 AU run to end the half.
Down 30-20 at the break, Hass opened the second half with a driving layup, but American outscored the Bison 8-1 over the next four minutes to open up a 38-23 lead. The margin went up to 17 on a Darius Gardner layup with 10:42 to play before the Bison got back in it.
Two steals in the backcourt and a Brian Fitzpatrick offensive rebound off a missed free throw helped spark the 12-0 run. Hass’ trey made it 47-42 and then the Bison got another stop, but Ayers had three straight jumpers rim out on one long possession. Kyle Kager was fouled at the other end, and his free throws snapped American’s 6:09 scoring drought.
Hass canned another trey off an Ayers kick-out pass, but then the Bison went cold again. Ayers had a jumper go halfway down and spin out, Fitzpatrick came up empty on a good look in the lane, and Ryan Hill came up with a steal under the basket but his layup rimmed out.
Meanwhile American scored three times in the paint, and Wroblicky hit three free throws with his unusual one-handed shooting style to stretch the margin back to 10 inside two minutes to play.
Two missed free throws by Jesse Reed left the door open for the Bison to hit back-to-back threes by Frazier and Brackney, but the Eagles closed it out at the line.
American went 22-for-33 from the foul line on the night, while Bucknell was 14-for-22. The Bison shot 33.3 percent overall, their fifth game out of six under 40 percent after shooting 50.6 percent as a team through the first six games of the season.
Bucknell has now dropped three straight games within a season for the first time since November 2010 (Princeton, James Madison, Wagner), and the Bison saw their eight-game home winning streak against Patriot League foes come to an end.
Bucknell is back home again on Sunday at 2 p.m. against Colgate. That will be the 10th Annual Dirk Sojka’s Slam Dunk with Bison Basketball event, with items up for auction and raffle throughout the game to support Suncom Industries.