LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell won a hard-fought Patriot League Tournament semifinal game Sunday against Navy, 70-65, setting up a conference title clash with in-state rival Lehigh on Wednesday. This marks the 11th time that Bucknell advances to the Patriot League championship game and the fifth time hosting it at Sojka Pavilion.
Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland both battled through foul trouble the whole game, but the Bison frontcourt duo propelled the Bison offense with a combined 40 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Thomas scored 22 points to go with five assists, three rebounds and two steals, while Foulland scored 18 points to go along with five rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Foulland's lone assist set up the biggest shot of the game, as he whipped a pass to the left corner for Kimbal Mackenzie, who buried a 3-pointer that stretched a one-point lead up to 69-65 with 39 seconds remaining in the game. It marked only the second three-pointer of the game for Bucknell, as both teams struggled with their outside shooting all day.
Foulland then stole a pass in the lane, and Thomas hit 1 of 2 free throws to make the final 70-65. Bucknell improved to 25-8 overall and tied a school record with its 14th home victory of the season (14-2). It is the fifth time in program history that the Bison have reached the 25-win mark, with four of them coming in the last seven years.
Navy (16-16) forced 16 Bison turnovers leading to 18 points and grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, leading to 20 more field goal attempts in the game for the Midshipmen. The Bucknell defense held strong, though, as Navy shot only 32.3 percent (21-for-65) for the game and was only able to parlay those 21 offensive boards into seven second-chance points.
Navy made 21 free throws in 30 attempts, but Bucknell matched the Midshipmen by sinking 22 of 27 from the charity stripe. Shawn Anderson scored a team-high 21 points for Navy, while Bryce Dulin added 15.
Bucknell seemed to be in control early, scoring the first nine points of the game en route to a 17-6 lead. Foulland and Thomas scored 15 of the 17, and frontcourt players scored each of the team’s first 21 points of the night.
But the game changed at the 10:45 mark when Foulland picked up his second foul in as many offensive possessions. Thomas went to the bench with his second foul four minutes later, and Navy rallied to take a 32-31 halftime lead.
Thomas turned a steal near midcourt into a 3-point play, followed by two Foulland free throws to start the second half. Bucknell stretched the lead up to eight at 50-42 after a Nate Sestina free throw with 11:30 to play.
The Bison just could never shake the Midshipmen, however. Both coaches were maneuvering around foul trouble, and both teams were in the double-bonus by the midway point of the second half.
Navy scored eight straight points after the Sestina free throw, tying the game at 50 on an Edward Alade dunk with 10:19 left. Stephen Brown answered with a teardrop runner in the lane, which kicked off an 8-1 Bucknell run. Foulland scored the final six points in that spurt, giving the Bison a 58-51 lead with 7:08 to play.
Navy again stormed back, with Hasan Abdullah’s 3-point play knotting the score at 61-all with 2:38 to play. Thomas was fouled on a drive and hit both free throws to pitch the Bison back in front 64-62. Tom Lacey connected on 1 of 2 at the line at the other end after drawing Foulland’s fourth foul on a rebound, but then Foulland went 2-for-2 at the stripe to make it 66-63 with 1:24 left.
Anderson scored on a drive with 1:04 to play, setting up Mackenzie’s dagger. The Bison went inside to Foulland, and when the double team came he rifled a pass to Mackenzie in the opposite corner. Mackenzie had made only one other field goal in the game after averaging 20 points against Navy in the two regular-season meetings, but he drained perhaps the biggest shot of his career while absorbing some contact in the process.
At the other end, Dulan drove baseline from the left side and tried to dish a pass into the lane, but Foulland intercepted. Thomas added the free throw, and then Navy misfired on three late 3-pointers as the final seconds melted away.
Bucknell shot 48.9 percent from the field, despite the 2-for-12 showing from 3-point range. The Bison had been shooting 46 percent with 12 made threes per game over the last five contests, but Navy extended its zone defense out to the arc to limit Bucknell’s 3-point opportunities in this one.
Both Patriot League Tournament semifinal games came right down to the wire. Third-seeded Lehigh outlasted No. 2 Boston University 91-88 in double-overtime earlier in the day.
This will be the first postseason meeting between the Bison and Mountain Hawks since the 2012 title game, when Lehigh won 82-77 at Sojka Pavilion.
Bucknell went 15-3 in Patriot League play during the regular-season, but two of the losses came against Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks won 82-71 at Sojka Pavilion on Jan. 11, and 79-71 in Bethlehem on Feb. 8. Lehigh was a combined 19-for-36 (.528) from 3-point range in those two games.
The championship game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.