Colgate (6-7, 0-2), which was coming off consecutive double-overtime losses to Columbia and Lehigh, cut what had been an 18-point deficit all the way down to two with 3:57 to play, but the Bison made big plays down the stretch and ended the game on a 13-4 run.
The Raiders entered the contest shooting 44.0 percent as a team from 3-point distance, the top percentage in all of Division I basketball. But Damon Sherman-Newsome’s trey at the 13:26 mark of the first half was Colgate’s only one all day. Bucknell switched on all ball screens, which kept Colgate’s 3-point shooters within arm’s reach, and the Bison did well defending through some mismatches after the switches.
“This was a terrific bounce-back effort,” said head coach Dave Paulsen after the game. “To hold them to 1-for-12 from three was the result of a concentrated, dedicated effort, and the guys really executed the game plan. Sometimes we ended up with a center guarding their point guard and had our guards defending their bigs, but we got through it with good team defense. We guarded at a high level, and that’s how you win in this conference.”
Austin Tillotson was the only Colgate player in double figures with 15 points, seven coming from the foul line. Murphy Burnatowski, the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, was limited to eight on 3-for-9 shooting. The Raiders came in shooting 49.1 percent as a team while averaging a league-high 75.7 points per game, but they were held to 57 points on 43.8 percent accuracy on Sunday. The only other teams to keep Colgate under 60 points this year were Syracuse and Georgetown.
Hass was the story offensively for the Bison. He was coming off a career-high 18 points in Thursday’s loss to American, and he upped that mark again by going 10-for-15 from the floor and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Hass scored 15 points in the first half, and then after the Bison went scoreless for the first 5:44 of the second period, he got them going again with a 3-pointer that snapped Colgate’s 13-0 run.
Ethan Jacobs’ free throws with 3:57 left made it a 55-53 game, but then Hass went strong to the basket for a layup and a foul. He missed the free throw, but then Sherman-Newsome missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the other end, and Ryan Hill made a sweet pass to Hoffman for a layup. After a Colgate traveling violation, Kaspar hit his only field goal of the day, a big jumper from just past the free-throw line. Bucknell forced another turnover, and Hoffman made a great back-door pass to Hass for a layup that pushed the lead all the way back to 10 at 63-53 with 1:43 to play.
Hoffman hit both ends of a 1-and-1 and Ayers went 3-for-4 at the line to help ice the game.
“Chris is a really talented offensive player,” said Paulsen, “but what I will remember is that this is the best he has played defensively this season. To our guys’ credit, when we had that drought, we hung tough and stayed focused, and I thought Cam’s leadership was a big key. Dom Hoffman gave us some great minutes off the bench and John Azzinaro really gave us a spark offensively in the first half.”
During its three-game losing streak Bucknell had gotten off to slow starts each time, but in this one the Bison had 15 points a little more than five minutes into the game. Azzinaro canned two 3-pointers 52 seconds apart that pushed the margin into double figures for the first time at 23-12.
Hass scored seven straight Bucknell points in one stretch later in the half, and then Hoffman scored six in a row, the last two coming when he outran everyone down the floor for a fastbreak layup, with Kaspar delivering the assist. Ryan Hill’s layup with 41 seconds left in the half gave the Bison their largest lead of 18 points at 40-22.
“This is a process, and we are a team that needs to focus on getting a better one day at a time,” said Paulsen. “Our guys need to stay confident in themselves and in their teammates. We know and they know that they are good players.”
Bucknell shot 49.0 percent overall and finished 7-for-18 from 3-point range and 13-for-17 from the foul line. The Bison also held a 34-26 rebounding edge.
This was Bucknell’s ninth straight win over Colgate and 11th in a row over the Raiders at Sojka Pavilion.
Bucknell plays its first conference road game of the season at Lafayette on Wednesday at 7 p.m.