NOTE: The next Backcourt Club Men's Basketball Luncheon will be held on Thursday at La Primavera Restaurant in Lewisburg. The restaurant is located on Rt. 45, west of Rt. 15, and doors open at 11:45 a.m. The buffet lunch is $9 per person, and Coach Paulsen and select players will be in attendance to talk about the season thus far.
Chris Hass added 21 points, Cameron Ayers had 18 and Dom Hoffman 11 for the Bison, who shot 52.8 percent overall and closed out the game with some strong free-throw shooting down the stretch. The 96 points were the most since a 104-98 overtime loss to Cornell in 2009-10 and their most ever in a Patriot League road game, and they needed almost every one of them as Lafayette also shot very well from long range.
The Leopards (4-10, 0-3) shot 50.0 percent overall and went 10-for-17 from the arc. Dan Trist paced Lafayette with 21 points, Bryce Scott had 18 and Joey Ptasinski and Nick Lindner 11 each.
The two teams were a combined 21-for-27 from 3-point range at one point late in the game before finishing 22-for-32. Bucknell’s 12 treys were its second-most of the season, behind the 14 it hit at Albany on Nov. 23. Brackney led the way with six bombs in eight attempts, and Ayers was a perfect 4-for-4. Brackney also went 5-for-6 from the foul line and surpassed his previous high of 22 points in that Albany game.
Coach Dave Paulsen received big contributions from his bench in this one. Hoffman scored nine of his points from 10 free-throw attempts, most of them coming in the final four minutes to help stave off a Lafayette comeback attempt. Ryan Frazier had nine points on 3-for-4 shooting, and freshman D.J. MacLeay and John Azzinaro both played important minutes in Bucknell’s game-changing run late in the first half.
Just after Lafayette took its first and only lead of the night at the 5:34 mark of the first half, Bucknell took the game over thanks to some piping hot outside shooting to complement good interior passing.
Bucknell shot 58.6 percent and Lafayette 51.9 percent in a hotly contested opening half. Hass’ put-back capped a 7-0 spurt and gave the Bison an early 11-4 lead. Later in the half Lafayette flipped a six-point deficit into its first lead of the night with a 9-0 run. A 3-pointer by Zach Rufer tied it at 25, and then Ptasinski hit a deep three to put Lafayette on top 28-25.
Brackney hit a 3-pointer with 5:18 left in the half to put a halt to Bucknell’s 4:06 scoring drought, and the Bison were just getting started. After a Scott layup for Lafayette, MacLeay scored on a reverse layup, Brackney hit two more 3-pointers and Ayers followed with a trey to give Bucknell 11 points in just over a minute, and a 39-30 lead to go with it.
Michael Hoffman’s 3-pointer momentarily stopped the Bison surge, but a MacLeay free throw, a driving layup by Azzinaro and an Ayers layup pushed the lead up to 11 at 44-33. Scott’s contested runner in the lane with 0:04 left made it a nine-point margin at the break.
Bucknell then took control with its best defensive stretch in the first eight minutes of the second stanza. The Bison limited the Leopards to two field goals in that span – and none in one six-minute run – and they were able to balloon the lead all the way up to 19 at 60-41.
One of the biggest plays of the night came at the 16:43 mark with the lead still at nine. Steven Kaspar came from behind to reject a Trist layup attempt, and then in transition Kaspar dished to Brackney for a right-wing 3-pointer. After two free throws by Trist, Kaspar assisted on an Ayers trifecta and a Brackney layup. Frazier’s free throws gave the Bison their largest cushion of the night with 12:18 left.
Bucknell was content to trade baskets with the hot-shooting Leopards the rest of the way, although some deep threes meant Lafayette was trading twos for threes, allowing them to creep within eight on a couple of occasions in the final minutes.
The Bison went 17-for-20 from the foul line in the final 3:15 to clinch the victory. Hoffman, Brackney and Hass combined for 16 of those 17 makes.
“Every conference win is to be valued, and every conference win on the road is to be treasured,” said Paulsen afterward. “Ironically, in a 96-86 game I thought the key was our defense in that stretch early in the second half. We made them take contested shots, and that allowed us to open up some breathing room. Give a lot of credit to Lafayette, they are really hard to guard. When Lindner is driving and Scott is spotting up outside and Trist down low, they are a handful. But I thought we showed a lot of poise offensively down the stretch, handling the ball against their pressure and knocking down free throws.”
Kaspar drew a number of fouls on drives early in the contest, and he finished with six assists and eight rebounds one game after posting seven helpers and 10 boards against Colgate. Hass topped the 20-point mark for the second straight game and now has 65 points in the three Patriot League contests.
The Bison committed only six turnovers in the game – Lafayette had just six as well – and Bucknell finished with a 35-30 rebounding edge.
In addition to the 96 points being the most by the Bison in more than four years, that was the team’s highest output in a regulation-time game since a 98-52 win over Carnegie Mellon on Jan. 2, 1998. It was the most points ever in a Patriot League road game and the most in any road contest since a 97-67 victory at Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 26, 1991.
Bucknell will return home on Saturday to face Holy Cross at 2 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.