LEWISBURG, Pa. – In a game of wild momentum swings, it was Lehigh that made the final surge in an 82-71 defeat of Bucknell on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison stormed back from 18 points down in the second half to tie the game, but the Mountain Hawks finished the game on a 16-5 run over the final 5:45 to snap Bucknell’s four-game winning streak.
The Bison fell to 12-6 overall and 4-1 in the Patriot League, and they dropped a game behind Boston University for the Patriot League lead. Third-place Lehigh improved to 9-7, 3-2.
“We didn’t do the things we need to do to win games over the span of 40 minutes tonight, and that’s disappointing,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “We showed some fight and got back in the game during that stretch, but unfortunately we made too many mistakes early in the game and then at the end.”
The battle of All-Patriot League centers was a wash, as Bucknell’s Nana Foulland and Lehigh’s Tim Kempton both finished with 20 points. Foulland was 7-for-9 from the field and 6-for-8 from the foul line to go with seven rebounds. Kempton had eight boards and went 8-for-13 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and 3-for-3 from the line.
Stephen Brown added 12 points, and Zach Thomas had 11 with five rebounds and five assists for Bucknell. Lehigh received 16 points each from Austin Price and Pat Andree, and 11 from Kahron Ross. The Mountain Hawks came into the game leading the Patriot League in all three shooting categories, and they backed it up in this one by connecting on 50.0 percent of their shots from the field, including 10 of 17 from the 3-point arc after a 9-for-11 start.
The game was played within one possession for the first seven minutes before Lehigh began to build some steam. The Mountain Hawks pushed a six-point lead up to 14 with an 8-0 run, keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Price and Andree.
But the Bison closed the half with a 10-2 surge, highlighted by treys from Brown and Avi Toomer, to get the margin back to six at 40-34 at the break.
The first two minutes of the second half were a game-changer, as Lehigh exploded for a 12-0 run in a span of only four possessions and 1:14. Consecutive treys by Kempton, Price and Andree, followed by an Andree 3-point play in transition gave Lehigh a stunning 18-point lead at 52-34.
A Thomas 3-pointer ended the run, and the Bison would go on to outscore the Mountain Hawks 26-8 over the next nine minutes to even things up. Down 15 after a pair of Ross free throws, Bucknell scored the next 10 points, with four different players scoring.
Following a Kempton layup, Foulland threw down a dunk, and Brown hit a trey to make it 58-56 with 11:30 to go. Kempton, the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year who came in averaging better than 21 points and 10 rebounds per game, then picked up his fourth foul going for a rebound on Lehigh’s next offensive possession.
The Bison eventually tied the game at 60-60 on a D.J. MacLeay layup at the 8:49 mark. The teams then traded baskets for the next several possessions – it was knotted at 60, 62, 64 and 66 -- but Lehigh’s bench would spark the game-deciding run.
Brandon Alston hit an 8-footer to snap the 66-all tie, and after a Bison miss from the arc, Jordan Cohen drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. After the teams traded stops, Cohen stole a pass at the top of the key and took it in for a breakaway layup. Those were Cohen’s only two buckets of the night, but they were two of the biggest, as they gave Lehigh a seven-point cushion at 73-66 with 4:39 left.
The Bison pulled within four on a couple of occasions, but they went scoreless over the final three minutes while Lehigh scored the final seven points of the night.
Bucknell shot 44.6 percent for the game but could not match Lehigh from the 3-point arc. While Lehigh was 10-for-17, the Bison hit 6 of 23. The Bison were strong at the foul line (15-18) and committed only 11 turnovers, but they were outrebounded 35-29.
Bucknell is back on the road on Saturday at Colgate at 2 p.m.