WORCESTER, Mass. – Justin Burrell scored 19 points and Holy Cross used high-pressure defense to defeat Bucknell 66-50 on Sunday afternoon at Bucknell. Cameron Ayers scored 15 points and Chris Hass had 14 for the Bison, who had beaten the Crusaders earlier in the year at Sojka Pavilion.
Holy Cross (14-10, 8-4) also received 14 points from Malcolm Miller and has now won seven of its last eight. The Bison fell to 10-13 overall, 5-7 in the Patriot League.
These two longtime rivals engaged in a hard-fought, physical game, and points were difficult to come by in the early going. The Crusaders led 27-21 at the half and then opened it up with a 26-12 run to start the second period.
There were five lead changes and three ties in the first half. Neither team led by more than four points for the first 16-plus minutes until Taylor Abt’s tip dunk gave Holy Cross a 20-14 lead. Burrell’s driving layup with 1:31 left gave the Crusaders their largest lead of the half at eight points at 27-19.
Ayers hit a tough pull-up on the left wing, and the Bison closed the half with a defensive stop to pull within six at the break.
Bucknell had a chance to get closer on its first possession of the second half but missed a layup, and Burrell answered with a 3-pointer the other way. A drive to the basket by Eric Green then stretched the Crusaders’ lead into double digits for the first time at 32-21.
After not shooting any free throws in the first half, Bucknell was 7-for-8 at the line in the first 7:39 of the second half. But the Bison were also just 1-for-10 from the field in that span, and Holy Cross was able to maintain its double-figure lead.
Holy Cross stretched it out even further with a 10-2 run midway through the second half. A steal and breakaway dunk by Green and a 3-pointer by Dave Dudzinski sparked the run, and Burrell’s 15-footer made it 53-33 with 7:24 to play.
Five straight points by Steven Kaspar cut it to 15, but then Dudzinski grabbed Holy Cross’ fourth straight offensive rebound and put it back in, and the Crusaders led by at least 14 the rest of the way.
John Azzinaro gave Bucknell a nice lift off the bench, recording seven points and three assists in a career-high 22 minutes. Ayers scored all 15 of his points in the first half, scoring 15 of the team’s 21, but he was kept off the board in the second half and his streak of consecutive 20-point games ended at four.
The Bison shot 32.7 percent overall and hit 7 of 22 from 3-point range and 11 of 13 from the foul line. Holy Cross shot 41.8 percent while canning 6 of 15 from 3-point distance and 14 of 21 at the line. The Crusaders finished with a 38-30 edge on the glass, led by a game-high 12 boards from Dudzinski.
The Bison will return home on Wednesday night to face Navy at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.