LEWISBURG, Pa. - The Bucknell men's basketball team overcame a sloppy start with a strong push to the finish, defeating Boston University 70-59 in front of the loudest Sojka Pavilion crowd of the season on Saturday afternoon. The first-place Bison outscored the second-place Terriers 24-7 in the game's final seven minutes, 22 seconds, erasing a six-point deficit to win the game and take a two-game lead in the Patriot League standings.
The Bison (15-6, 7-1 PL) were once again led by strong play from center Nana Foulland, who scored a career-high-tying 23 points to go along with six rebounds and four blocks. Foulland, who was honored pre-game for reaching the 1,000-point milestone in the team's last contest, made 11 of his 15 field goal attempts, including 10 of his last 11 after a 1-for-4 start.
Guards Stephen Brown and Kimbal Mackenzie finished with 10 and 12 points, respectively, after both were held scoreless in the first half. Avi Toomer finished with eight points, all from the free throw line in the second half, and three steals. Forward Zach Thomas, the team’s leading scorer, was held to one field goal and five points, but he added eight assists, six rebounds and two steals.
The Terriers (10-10, 5-3 PL) had 10 steals and forced 12 Bucknell turnovers in the first half, en route to a 29-22 halftime lead. The Bison shot only 35.0 percent in the opening stanza and missed all six of their three-point attempts. However, the Bison turned it around and committed just three miscues in the second half, while shooting 17-26 (.654) from the field and 4-7 from three-point range.
Justin Alston paced Boston University with 20 points, while Kyle Foreman tallied 11 points, seven assists and three steals. A big key to the game was Bucknell’s defense on the Terriers’ top two scorers, Eric Fanning and Cedric Hankerson. Fanning, a First Team All-Patriot League selection last season, was shadowed by Bucknell freshmen Toomer and Bruce Moore, and he was held to five points, all on free throws (0-for-7 from the field). Hankerson made a three on his first shot of the night, but the Bison held him to one more field goal the rest of the way as he finished with five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
“I thought we were really careless with the ball in the first half, and we just weren’t getting enough shots,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “In the second half, we took better care of the ball and got it side-to-side and inside-out against their zone. When you are turning the ball over like we were in the first half, it also gets you scrambling back on defense. We had to stop beating ourselves, and once we settled down and played with each other, we were able to score and defend the way we want.”
The Terriers led by as many as eight points late in the first half, and it was still a six-point game at 52-46 after Alston’s follow with 7:56 to play. Bucknell had not been able to piece together a run of more than five points at that juncture, but two free throws by Toomer at the 7:22 mark finally got the Bison going.
Foulland scored in the lane, and then a Boston University turnover led to a 3-on-1 break the other way. Thomas made a nice pass to Mackenzie for the finish, and with the crowd roaring the Bison had evened the game at 52-all.
After a two-block flurry by Thomas and Foulland really got the crowd into it, Toomer drew a foul and made 1 of 2 at the line to put the Bison up 53-52 – their first lead since it was 4-3. Hankerson then missed two free throws, and after a timeout with four seconds left on the shot clock, Mackenzie buried a right-corner 3-poitner off an inbounds play to cap the 10-0 run.
At the 3:11 mark, Brown swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key to stretch a two-point lead up to five. Brown came up with a steal and breakaway layup, and after Boston University pulled within four on a pair of Fanning free throws, Thomas drained a deep three at the end of the shot clock – his only field goal of the night – to make it 64-57 with 0:50 left.
Toomer made 3 of 4 at the line in the final 27 seconds, and the Bison closed the game with three straight stops to make it an 11-point final margin. Toomer did not attempt a field goal in the game, but he set career highs by going 8-for-12 at the free-throw line in addition to his strong defense.
Bucknell ended up at 52.2 percent from the field for the game, its sixth time in the last seven games over 50 percent. The Bison were 4-for-13 from 3-point distance and 18-for-27 at the line.
Boston University converted at an even 40.0 percent and went 6-for-20 from the arc and 5-for-12 from the foul line. Fanning was 5-for-6 at the stripe, while the rest of the squad went 0-for-6.
The Terriers outrebounded the Bison 35-30, with 17 of those boards coming at the offensive end. Bucknell had been plus-40 on the glass in its previous five games.
Despite the first half turnover flurry, the Bison finished the game with a plus-3 turnover margin. The Terriers finished with 18 miscues to Bucknell’s 15, and the two teams combined for 21 steals.
The Bison blocked eight shots, four of them by Foulland, who passed Mike Bright to move into fourth place on Bucknell’s career blocks list with 122.
Bucknell has now won six straight from the Terriers and is 9-3 all-time against them.
The Bison close out the first round of Patriot League play on the road against Lafayette on Wednesday at 7 p.m.