Feb. 26, 2005
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Chris Niesz, Bucknell's only senior on the roster, wrote a perfect ending to the Senior Night script by hitting a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to give the Bison a 60-59 victory over Colgate on Saturday night at Sojka Pavilion.
Niesz, who finished with a season-high 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, reversed what was nearly an amazing Colgate comeback from 10 points down with five minutes to play. Instead Bucknell ends the regular season with a 19-9 record - its most wins in coach Pat Flannery's 11-year tenure.
At 10-4 in the Patriot League, Bucknell will be the No. 2 seed at next week's Patriot League Tournament and face No. 7 Lafayette on Friday at 8 p.m. Third-seeded American and No. 6 Navy will play at 5:30 in the other semifinal.
Colgate (12-15, 7-7), which was led by 14 points from reserve Kyle Roemer, will be the No. 5 seed in the tournament and face No. 4 Lehigh Friday at Holy Cross.
After some ice-cold shooting from both teams at the start of the night, this one settled into a terrific contest. Bucknell led 32-30 at halftime on Chris McNaughton's layup with two seconds left, but the lead swapped hands six times in a six-minute span early in the second half.
Leading 46-45 inside eight minutes to play, John Griffin canned 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, both off kick-outs from point guard Abe Badmus, to give the Bison a 52-45 lead. After a Roemer floater in the lane for Colgate, the Bison got an inside basket from Tarik Viaer-McClymont and a 3-pointer from Charles Lee that bounced high off the rim and through for a 57-47 lead, the largest for either team all night.
Colgate was hardly finished, however. The same resilient squad that reduced a 21-point second-half deficit to two in the team's earlier meeting in Hamilton, N.Y., proceeded to rattle off the next 12 points in a row.
Jon Simon scored to end Bucknell's run, then Donald Brown missed two free throws (Bucknell finished 3 of 10 from the line) and fouled Simon going for the rebound. Simon made both at the other end and Andrew Zidar followed with a 3-point play to make it 57-54.
McNaughton then made a pretty baseline move but missed his dunk attempt coming out from under the basket. Roemer answered with a 3-pointer to knot the game at 57 with 2:02 left. With the shot clock running down Kevin Bettencourt rimmed out a 26-foot 3-pointer, Colgate rebounded and stunningly took the lead on Zidar's baseline jumper with 54 seconds left.
In the final 40 seconds Bucknell turned it over when McNaughton couldn't handle a low entry pass on the right block and kicked the ball out of bounds. The Bison quickly forced Raiders point guard Alvin Reed to step on the sideline on the ensuing inbounds, but Bettencourt missed a 3-point try from the right wing with 15 seconds left and McNaughton fouled Reed after the rebound.
The Raiders were 7-for-7 from the foul line at that point, but Reed missed a chance to make it a two-possession game by rimming out the front end of the one-and-one.
After calling its final timeout with 7.8 seconds left, the Bison went inside to McNaughton but Alex Woodhouse swatted his layup attempt out of bounds with 1.6 seconds left. On the inbounds Lee spotted Niesz wide open at the top of the key, and the senior calmly drained the winning shot, setting off chaos at Sojka Pavilion, as many of the 2,989 fans in attendance stormed the court.
Bucknell began the game 1-for-7 from the field while the Raiders started 1-for-10. The Bison led by six points on two early occasions before Colgate used a 9-2 run to grab its first lead of the day at 19-18. That was the first of seven lead changes in the half, the last coming on McNaughton's layup off a nice feed from Lee in the closing seconds.
Simon finished with 11 points for Colgate, which shot 50.0 percent in the second half and 45.3 percent on the night. The Raiders came into the game as the Patriot League top 3-point shooting team, but they struggled on Saturday making only 4 of 17.
Bettencourt finished with 10 points and tied his career high with six steals. He finished just 1-for-8 from 3-point range but pulled within two of Mike Bright's Bucknell career 3-point record. Bettencourt now has 204.
Badmus also had a strong game with seven points, five rebounds and four assists. The Bison shot 45.5 percent from the field.
Bucknell won its 14th straight Patriot League home game, finishing 7-0 at home in league play for the second straight year. It is the team's first 19-win season since 1992-93 and its first 10-win conference showing since 1994-95.
The Bison swept both meetings with Lafayette this season and are 1-1 against the Leopards in Patriot League Tournament play.