ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Kimbal Mackenzie logged 22 points and five steals to help Bucknell rally past Navy 59-55 in the Patriot League opener for both teams Friday night at Alumni Hall. Nana Foulland recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and the Bison came from 13 down in the second half to beat the Midshipmen for the sixth straight time.
Bucknell (9-5, 1-0) gutted out a victory on a night were points were nearly impossible to come by. The Bison shot just 34 percent from the field, they made 5 of 20 from the 3-point arc, and they even struggled at the free-throw line (20-35) while forcing Navy into 30 fouls.
Bucknell missed its final 10 shots of the first half but trailed by just nine at 32-23 at the break. Navy (5-8, 0-1) opened the second stanza with a pair of layups to take its largest lead of 13 points at 36-23. After a quick timeout by head coach Nathan Davis, the Bison held the Midshipmen scoreless for more than six minutes and slowly chipped away at the lead.
Mackenzie was the catalyst of the comeback. He hit three second-half 3-pointers and scored 19 of his 22 points after the break. His six straight points capped a 7-0 run and brought the Bison within 46-45 with 5:50 left.
Bucknell came up empty on three chances in a one-possession game, and Navy was able to go back up by five points at 51-46 after two George Kiernan free throws with 3:21 to go.
Zach Thomas, the Patriot League’s No. 2 scorer at 16.6 points per game, had not scored to that juncture, but he answered with a critical 3-point play to make it a two-point game with 3:02 left. After a Shawn Anderson baseline jumper, Foulland scored in the paint, and then Thomas put back a miss to tie the game at 53-all – the first tie since 5-5.
Stephen Brown, who clinched last year’s Bison win at Alumni Hall with a last-second steal, picked the pocket of Hasan Abdullah and went coast-to-coast for a layup and a 55-53 lead with 1:13 left.
Bucknell could not put the game away, however, missing 4 of 6 free throws in one stretch. The Midshipmen had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. Zach Fong missed a 3-pointer, but Anderson was fouled on a scramble for the rebound under the basket. Anderson missed both free throws – Navy was also 2-for-6 at the line in the final minute – and Mackenzie finally iced it with two free throws with seven seconds left.
“Give credit to Navy, they really took it to us early,” said Davis. “Coach DeChellis had his team ready to play. They are very physical and make you work for every basket. As much as we struggled to score, the key for us was getting stops. They had 23 points about nine minutes into the game, which is unacceptable from our standpoint. We finally started getting stops, and I though we showed great toughness down the stretch.”
Indeed, Bucknell was terrific defensively for much of the night. The Bison held Navy to 37-percent shooting and had 10 steals from Navy’s 17 turnovers. The Midshipmen finished 6 of 24 from the arc and 9 of 18 from the foul line.
Anderson was Navy’s lone double-digit scorer with 12 points.
After the Bison scored the first five points of the game, Navy forced five turnovers over the next two minutes, and the Midshipmen ripped off 13 straight points. Navy’s lead climbed to 23-11 before the Bison scored six straight. A layup by Ben Robertson trimmed the margin to six at 23-17 with 9:00 on the clock, but that would be Bucknell’s last field goal of the half.
Navy came in shooting 30.8 percent from the 3-point arc on the season, but they hit five in the first 12 minutes of the game. Bucknell’s defense limited the Mids to only two field goals in the final seven minutes of the half, and the Bison knocked down a handful of free throws to stay within nine despite their lowest first-half point total of the season.
Bucknell finished with 16 turnovers, but only four in the second half. The Bison won on a night when they led for 3:38 and trailed for 35:14, and they posted their biggest come-from-behind victory of the year.
The Bison, who have still not lost back-to-back games this season, are 1-0 in league play for the third straight year.
Bucknell is back home Monday to face Army West Point at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.