*NOTE: The next Bucknell men's basketball Backcourt Club Luncheon is slated for Thursday (2/9) at La Primavera Restaurant on Rt. 45 in Lewisburg. The luncheon starts at noon, with coach Nathan Davis and select Bison players scheduled to appear.*
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Bucknell kept overcoming deficits, but Lehigh made the final run and prevailed 79-71 on Wednesday night at Stabler Arena, ending the Bison's seven-game winning streak. Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland both recorded double-doubles for Bucknell, which is now 19-7 overall and 11-2 in the Patriot League. Austin Price hit a critical 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining and scored 25 points to pace the Mountain Hawks, who are now 14-10, 8-5 PL.
Coming off a career-high 27-point game 48 hours ago against Holy Cross, Thomas scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Foulland tallied 16 points and matched his career high with 13 rebounds, giving Bucknell two double-doubles in the same game for the first time since a November win over Robert Morris.
Tim Kempton logged 24 points and 11 rebounds for Lehigh. It was quite a battle between All-Patriot League centers Foulland and Kempton, who combined for 40 points and 24 rebounds on the night.
The Bison came from eight points down to grab a one-point lead early in the second half, only to see Lehigh answer Bucknell’s 9-0 run with a 13-0 spurt of its own. Suddenly down 61-49 with 12 minutes left, the Bison battled back again, tying the game at 67 on a Thomas layup with 2:58 to go.
After the final media timeout, Lehigh’s Jordan Cohen hit a baseline jumper – his only points of the night and just Lehigh’s second field goal in more than seven minutes – to snap the tie. Bucknell had two possessions to pull back even, but twice missed contested shots in the paint. Then Price canned his fifth 3-pointer of the night, a dagger from the top of the key with 0:39 to play, to make it a five-point game.
Lehigh then iced it at the foul line, hitting 7 of 8 in the final 31 seconds to complete a regular-season sweep of the Bison for the first time since 2007-08.
“I thought both teams played really hard tonight, and in the end they made a few more plays than we did,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “Our guys never quit when our backs were against the wall, which shows the character of our team. We have said all along that we just want to keep progressing so that we are playing our best basketball in March, and that would have been our mindset had we won or lost tonight.”
Bucknell’s Patriot League lead was reduced to two games, as second-place Navy and Boston University both pulled out three-point wins over Loyola and American, respectively.
Lehigh led 43-40 after a fast-paced first half. Brown scored seven of Bucknell’s first 12 points, and the Bison led by as many as four early on.
The Mountain Hawks flipped a three-point deficit into a four-point lead with the first of two 7-0 runs in the first half. Thomas hit two deep 3-pointers to keep the Bison within a point, but Kyle Leufroy hit a pull-up jumper and a corner three, followed by a Kahron Ross transition layup to give Lehigh a 37-29 lead with 5:17 on the clock.
Mackenzie managed to get a triple to drop after the ball danced around the rim a few times, and that sparked a 7-1 run the other way. The Bison then closed the half with a Foulland put-back and a defensive stop.
Bucknell withstood some hot and cold spurts throughout the game and finished at 38.8 percent from the field (7-for-23 from 3-point range). The Bison went 12-for-13 from the foul line and committed a season-low eight turnovers.
Lehigh shot 44.1 percent overall, including 9-for-19 from the arc, and the Mountain Hawks went 18-for-20 at the foul line.
Bucknell will now have five days off before hosting Colgate on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.