COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Bucknell gave Maryland all it could handle at the XFINITY Center on Saturday night, building a 15-point halftime lead and taking the game right down to the final shot, but the Terrapins had just enough to outlast the Bison 80-78 before a crowd of 14,841.
Senior point guard Stephen Brown had a magnificent game for Bucknell, finishing with a career-high 23 points with six rebounds and three assists. Maryland native Zach Thomas tallied 17 points, and Nana Foulland had 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
Anthony Cowan led Maryland (4-0) with 17 points from his point guard spot, even though Brown limited him to two field goals in seven attempts. Cowan made 12 of 13 at the foul line, including 5 of 6 in the final 24 seconds. Kevin Huerter added 16 points, and Darryl Morsell scored 12 of his 15 in the second half to help spark Maryland’s comeback.
It was a dream first half for the Bison, who outscored Maryland 35-17 over the final 11 minutes and led 50-35 at the break. Led by 14 points from Brown and 13 from Foulland, the Bison shot 64.5 percent from the field and hit 7 of 10 from the arc in the opening period.
Trailing 18-15, Brown made two free throws followed by a 3-pointer, and then Thomas made a trey to cap a quick 8-0 run and give Bucknell a 23-18 lead. It was just a three-point lead at 30-27 when Nate Jones knocked down his second trey of the half to key a 9-0 spurt that pushed the lead into double figures.
Two straight Brown drives – one for a feed to Foulland for a jam and another for his own layup – made it 48-33. In the final 30 seconds, Thomas scored in the lane, and then forced a Huerter air ball to close out the half.
It was a different story in the second stanza, as Maryland ramped up its defense and transition game to get back in it. The Terrapins outscored Bucknell 29-11 in the first 11:11 of the half, regaining the lead on a Huerter 3-pointer and a Morsell free throw.
But the Bison responded to the Maryland jabs. Nate Sestina scored four straight points and then made a nice drive and dish to Bruce Moore, who was fouled going up on a backdoor cut. Moore’s free throw tied the game at 66, and then Thomas answered a Bruno Fernando bucket with two free throws to tie it again at 68 with 6:05 left.
Justin Jackson’s only 3-pointer of the night broke that tie with 5:44 left. Maryland would lead the rest of the way, but the game would not be decided until the final half-second.
Brown blew by a defender for a layup to bring Bucknell within 74-72 with 4:14 to go. The Bison then got five straight defensive stops, but they just could not find a shot to tie or take the lead. They got six good looks, the last of which was a Thomas right-wing 3-point try that went halfway down and popped out.
Huerter was fouled on the rebound, and he made 1 of 2 at the line. Bucknell’s untimely cold streak would reach 0-for-8, as Maryland built a 78-72 lead at the foul line. Then things got interesting.
Thomas got a 3-pointer to fall to make it 78-75. Cowan answered with two free throws, but Brown countered with a deep 3-pointer to get it to 80-78 with 0.5 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds, Morsell shoved Brown to the ground, giving the Bison possession under the Maryland basket.
Thomas caught the inbounds pass on the left wing, but his rushed 3-point attempt was off the mark, and would have been waved off as coming just after the buzzer.
Bucknell is 0-4 after an opening eight days of the season that took them on the road to Monmouth, Arkansas, defending national-champion North Carolina, and Maryland, four teams that combined to win 110 games last season.
“Obviously we did just about everything right in the first half,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “I thought we came out with great focus and energy and really played well. Maryland started switching defensively in the second half, and I thought we got caught staring down some mismatches at times and stopped moving the ball like we did in the first half. To our guys’ credit, we responded to their run and stayed in the game right to the end.”
The Bison finished the game at 46.2 percent from the field, hitting 10 of 24 from long range. They have now made double-digit treys in all four games. Bucknell finished with 16 assists on 30 made field goals with only 10 turnovers.
Maryland shot 47.5 percent on the night, including 55.6 percent in the second half. They were 4-for-13 from the arc, with all four makes coming in the second half. The Terps had a 41-26 rebounding edge, but the Bison led 17-11 in second-chance points. Bucknell also forced 16 Maryland turnovers.
Moore, a sophomore forward, made his first career start in place of the injured Avi Toomer.
Thomas, who came in averaging 25.3 points and 10 rebounds per game, went over the 1,100-point mark and moved past Bryan Cohen into 30th place on Bucknell’s career scoring list.
Brown also hit a milestone with his three assists. He now has an even 400 in his career, making him the sixth Bison to reach that plateau.
The Bison open up their home schedule on Monday night against Siena at 7 p.m. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free schedule magnet, courtesy of Red Robin. The team will also unveil its 2017 Patriot League championship and NCAA Tournament banners.