BOSTON, Mass. – The bench quartet of Ryan Frazier, Cory Starkey, D.J. MacLeay and John Azzinaro scored 30 of Bucknell’s final 32 points and the Bison rallied from nine points down in the second half to defeat Boston University 63-53 on Sunday afternoon at Agganis Arena. Cameron Ayers scored a team-high 11 points and Brian Fitzpatrick led an inspired effort on the glass with 12 rebounds as Bucknell won its fourth straight game and pulled into a fourth-place tie with Army in the Patriot League standings.
The Bison are now 14-13 overall and 9-7 in the Patriot League, while Boston University fell to 20-9, 13-3 and had its five-game winning streak snapped. The Terriers could have clinched at least a tie for the regular-season title, but now they are just one game ahead of American with two to play.
Bucknell and Army are both 9-7 in the Patriot League. The Bison and Black Knights split their two regular-season meetings, and now both are two games behind third-place Holy Cross and two ahead of sixth-place Lehigh. Bucknell’s win over Boston University gives it a leg up in a potential tiebreaker scenario, although Army still has a game remaining with the Terriers. Securing the No. 4 spot is important, as the fourth-place team would host the No. 5 seed in a Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal game.
In this one, Frazier scored 10 points, including two acrobatic 3-point plays down the stretch. Azzinaro added nine points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Starkey collected eight points, seven rebounds two assists and two steals. MacLeay had a perfect shooting day and finished with seven points and seven boards, and it was his first career 3-pointer with 7:52 to play that gave the Bison the lead for the first time in the second half. All told, the bench accounted for 34 points on 13-for-21 shooting, along with 19 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“Our bench production was off the charts,” said head coach Dave Paulsen. “The group that was in there at the end did a terrific job. We got knocked to the mat up at Holy Cross two weeks ago, but since then we have really defended better, and today we made a lot of those toughness plays with drives to the hoop, offensive rebounds and just keeping possessions alive.”
Offensive rebounding was a critical area for Bucknell, particularly early in the game when the team was struggling to make shots. Bucknell outrebounded a physical Terriers team 46-27, with 14 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Bison finished with a 15-6 edge in second-chance points.
Nathan Dieudonne led Boston University with 13 points, while Maurice Watson added 12 points, six assists and five steals. The Terriers shot 25 percent from the floor and went 0-for-7 from 3-point distance in the first half, but Dieudonne, a 7-for-28 long-range shooter on the season, hit two straight treys to get the Terriers going. A 3-point play by Dom Morris and a free throw by D.J. Irving made it a 10-2 run to start the half, and Boston University led 33-24.
Bucknell hung in there defensively and on the glass, however, and the Bison finally put a run together when some shots started to fall. The reserve group began to come on with about 13 minutes to play and helped fuel an 11-2 run. Starkey scored on a scoop shot in the lane, MacLeay put back an offensive rebound, Azzinaro scored on a drive to the hoop, and then an Azzinaro steal led to the trailing MacLeay’s wide-open 3-pointer that gave the Bison a 40-38 lead with 7:52 to play.
After Watson tied it with a pair of free throws, Frazier drove along the right baseline and fed Starkey on the weak side for a layup, and the Bison would never trail again. Morris missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then Starkey came flying in from the left side for a stick-back to stretch the lead to four.
The lead was still four inside four minutes to play when Azzinaro worked off a MacLeay screen and hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 51-44. Dieudonne scored on a put-back for Boston University, but then Frazier was fouled on a reverse layup, and he made the free throw for a 54-46 lead.
Malik Thomas hit 1 of 2 at the foul line, and as the Bison were draining clock at the other end, Frazier again found a seam, took it hard to the glass and converted a second straight 3-point play to push the margin all the way up to 10 at 57-47 with 1:56 left.
Frazier’s breakaway layup after a long outlet by Starkey gave the Bison their largest lead of 12 points with 58 seconds left. John Papale hit a 3-pointer for the Terriers, but Azzinaro shut the door by making both ends of a 1-and-1.
The Bison finished the game on a 39-20 run and improved to 4-3 all-time against Boston University.
“This was a very gratifying win, but we certainly have not arrived yet,” said Paulsen. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we are showing signs of getting to where we want to be. Today we defended exceptionally well the entire game, and even though we did not make shots early on, I thought we executed pretty well on offense. They make it very hard to run your offense because they are so athletic and physical, so we had to make some individual plays with drives to the basket.”
The Bison held the Terriers to 32.0 percent shooting overall and just four 3-pointers in 18 attempts. This was Boston University’s lowest point tally of the season and just the third team all year it scored fewer than 60 points. Bucknell shot 53.8 percent in the second half and 43.6 percent overall. The Bison were 5-for-13 from 3-point range and 10-for-14 from the foul line.
Both teams struggled to get shot to drop in the early going. Boston University missed 12 of its first 14 shots as the Bison went out to an 8-2 lead, but the Bison were chilly as well, and they never could get their lead stretched out beyond six points.
Fitzpatrick’s put-back with 7:27 left in the half have the Bison a 14-8 lead, but a Dieudonne 3-point play kicked off a 7-0 spurt for the Terriers. A wild shot by Cedric Hankerson gave them their first lead (16-15) since it was 2-0.
Chris Hass and Fitzpatrick hit 3-pointers late in the half for Bucknell, but an 8-4 foul disparity in Boston University’s favor led to a couple of 1-and-1 opportunities, and the Terriers hit all four free throws in the final 43 seconds of the half to take a 23-22 lead into the locker room.
Bucknell plays its final regular-season home game on Wednesday against Lehigh at 7 p.m.