HAMILTON, N.Y. – Cameron Ayers scored a game-high 21 points, his third straight game over 20, and Bucknell bounced back from a couple of tough losses to post a 79-68 win at Colgate on Saturday afternoon at Cotterell Court. Four Bison scored in double figures and seven had at least eight points, and the bench contributed heavily with a combined 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals.
The victory upped Bucknell’s record to 10-11 overall and 5-5 in the Patriot League, and the Bison pulled back within one game of fourth-place Holy Cross in the league standings.
Ben Brackney hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points, Chris Hass and Steven Kaspar tallied 10 each, and Brian Fitzpatrick scored nine points. Kaspar came off the bench for the first time this season, and he also added five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Ryan Frazier and Dom Hoffman were also major factors off the bench. Frazier scored eight points, hit both ends of a 1-and-1 at a key juncture with 1:35 remaining, and also sparked a strong defensive effort with four steals.
“Our energy was really good today,” said head coach Dave Paulsen, who won his 109th game at Bucknell, just one behind Hall-of-Famer Malcolm Musser for third place on the program’s all-time list. “If we can continue to get that level of focus and energy, we can be a tough team to beat.”
Murphy Burnatowski scored 20 points to lead Colgate (8-13, 2-8), which was coming off a road win over Lafayette on Monday. The Bison swept the season series from Colgate and defeated the Raiders for the 10th straight time.
Bucknell shot 50.9 percent for the game and made 8 of 17 3-point attempts. The Bison erased an early 8-2 deficit with a 10-0 run. They led for the game’s final 35:14 and led by at least nine points for the final 13:37.
Colgate opened the second half with a 12-4 run to trim a 15-point deficit down to seven, but the Bison tightened back up defensively while scoring on three straight possessions to restore a double-figure lead. As he did all day, Ayers keyed that surge, hitting a fadeaway jumper from the baseline and a coast-to-coast layup.
Brackney hit two big 3-pointers just over a minute apart, the second one coming off a Frazier drive and dish in transition, giving Bucknell a 57-43 lead with 10:16 to play. Colgate got back within nine on a Luke Roh free throw with 8:01 left, but Frazier answered with a pull-up jumper at the elbow. Burnatowski made 1 of 2 at the foul line, and then Ayers swished a three from the right side. Driving layups by Frazier and Kaspar pushed Bucknell’s margin back to 15 with 4:04 left, and the Bison iced it with a 12-for-15 showing at the free-throw line in the final 1:35.
Bucknell shot 55.6 percent en route to a 39-24 halftime advantage. The Raiders jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, but two Hass free throws got the Bison going. Hass followed with a 3-pointer, Kaspar fed Fitzpatrick for a fastbreak layup and Ayers hit a 3-pointer to cap a 10-0 run.
Bucknell’s lead was just two at 17-15 when Hoffman tracked down a loose ball at mid-court, and Kaspar turned the broken play into a layup that ignited an 11-0 run. A nice feed from Kaspar to Hoffman gave the Bison their first double-digit advantage at 26-15, and Ayers slashed down the lane for a layup to complete the run.
Burnatowski hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring Colgate within 10 with 1:50 to play, but the Bison scored the final five points of the half. Ayers answered the Burnatowski trey with one of his own, and with 22 seconds left in the half Ayers hit a little pull-up jumper along the baseline to give the Bison their largest lead. A strong defensive stand to close the half sent Bucknell to the locker room up by 15.
In addition to shooting 50.9 percent, their highest mark in seven games, the Bison committed a season-low four turnovers. They also blocked three shots, came up with six steals and held a good-shooting Colgate team to five 3-pointers and 44.6-percent shooting.
Ayers was again the catalyst for the Bison. He made eight of his first 11 shots before missing his final three. He was 3-for-5 from the 3-point arc, made both of his free-throw attempts and grabbed five rebounds. Ayers now has 1,383 career points, just one behind Bryson Johnson for 10th place on Bucknell’s all-time list.
“Cam was just outstanding today,” said Paulsen. “You could hear his voice the whole game. He made big shots, but this talk, toughness and passion was just off the charts. He gives us so much leadership.”
The Bison are back home on Wednesday to face Lafayette at 7 p.m.