Bucknell went 12-for-15 from 3-point range in a 96-86 win over Lafayette in Easton back on Jan. 8, but it was a much different story in this one as both teams struggled to make shots. The Bison missed their first 11 3-point tries before Ayers finally hit one with 8:35 left in the game. They finished 2-for-16 from the arc and shot 34.5 percent overall, compared to Lafayette’s 40.4 percent.
Despite those shooting difficulties, Bucknell got out to a solid start. The Bison led 8-0 after just 2:45 of play, and they took a nine-point advantage at 20-11 after Brian Fitzpatrick scored off an inbounds play with 5:45 left in the half. But the Leopards (6-16, 2-9) would finish the half on a 7-2 run to pull within 26-24, and they extended that run to 17-4 with a 10-2 start to the second half.
A pair of Hinrichs free throws stretched the Lafayette lead up to nine midway through the half, but two minutes later the Ayers 3-pointer pulled Bucknell within four at 41-37. The Bison again went cold, however, and Joey Ptasinski’s fastbreak layup capped a 6-0 run and put Lafayette up 10 at 47-37 with 6:26 to play.
A key sequence came just inside the four-minute mark, after two free throws by Ayers brought Bucknell within six at 49-43. The Bison had a seemingly solid defensive stand, but just as the shot clock was set to expire Monty Boykins caught a kick-out pass on the left wing and buried a 3-pointer to vault the difference back up to nine. Boykins came into the game shooting 22.2 percent from 3-point distance on the season and 3-for-16 in Patriot League play, but he was 3-for-4 in this game and scored 13 big points off the bench for the Leopards.
The final nail came with 1:28 left when Nick Lindner got stuck in the air under the basket, and his pass back into the middle of the lane went through at least two pairs of hands before falling to Dan Trist for a layup at the shot-clock buzzer. That put Lafayette up 56-47, and then Leopards went 10-for-12 at the line to put the game away.
“Give a lot of credit to Lafayette, they defended very well and played harder than we did,” said Bison head coach Dave Paulsen. “They are a different team with Seth Hinrichs back in the lineup, and he played great tonight. From our perspective, our leading scorers had some open shots that wouldn’t go down, as did other guys as well, and we allowed it to affect our resolve. Our offensive shooting woes were compounded by key moments of defensive mistakes. Overall our defense was not bad, but when you can’t get anything going offensively, every mistake is magnified.”
Fitzpatrick finished with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting for the Bison. Ayers is the first Bison to record four straight 20-point games since Mike Muscala did it in January 2013 against Missouri, Army, Colgate and Lafayette. Ayers also moved into the top 10 on Bucknell’s all-time scoring list. He now has 1,405 points, and he jumped past former teammate Bryson Johnson into 10th place.
Bucknell had been 15-0 against Lafayette in Sojka Pavilion and 24-3 against the Leopards in Lewisburg in the Patriot League era. Lafayette also lost a Patriot League Tournament game to American in Sojka in 2006, making them 0-16 in the facility before ending that streak on Wednesday.
The Bison will be back in action on Sunday at Holy Cross at noon. The contest will air live on CBS Sports Network.