LEWISBURG, Pa. - Stephen Brown connected on five 3-pointers and Zach Thomas hit four as the Bucknell men's basketball team tied a school record with 17 made 3-pointers in a 94-64 victory over Lafayette Wednesday evening at Sojka Pavilion. It was the largest margin of victory this year for the Bison, who improved to 22-8 overall and 14-3 in Patriot League play and clinched the outright regular-season title for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Thomas led Bucknell with 20 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists. Brown finished with 17 points, nine assists and no turnovers, while Nana Foulland was the third Bucknell player in double figures with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field in only 16 minutes.
The Bison, who had 24 assists and only five turnovers in the game, shot 42.5 percent from 3-point range, connecting on 17 of 40 as Lafayette looked to plug the middle of the lane. Bucknell was 18-for-32 from two-point range. The 40 3-point attempts broke the team record, and the Bison also set a record with eight different players recording a 3-pointer.
Lafayette (8-20, 4-13 PL) was led by 20 points from Matt Klinewski, while Eric Stafford had 10 points, six assists and six rebounds off the bench.
“We have guys who can score in multiple ways, so as long as the ball is moving we have a chance to get good shots,” said Nathan Davis, who has now led his team to Patriot League regular-season titles in each of his first two seasons as head coach at Bucknell. “You never go into a game thinking you are going to take 40 threes, but that is what the defense was giving us tonight and we have guys who can make them.”
The Bison started the game 1-for-6 from the floor and led by just two at 16-14 at the 11-minute mark of the first half. But Foulland’s dunk off a feed from Brown ignited an 8-0 run that later blossomed to 16-2 and then 28-8. Brown swished 3-pointers from the top of the key on consecutive possessions late in the half to put Bucknell in front 44-22.
The Bison led by 19 at the break, and then stretched that margin to as many as 34 with another onslaught of threes. A pair of treys by John Azzinaro, sandwiched around a jam by Nate Jones, made it 91-58. Nate Sestina notched the 17th triple of the night with 1:47 to go, giving Bucknell its largest lead at 94-60.
The Bison received outstanding bench production, with the reserves accounting for 31 points and 23 rebounds. Sestina had seven points and a career-high-tying nine rebounds in 15 minutes. MacLeay tallied eight points and six boards in 17 minutes, and Jones notched five points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. All told, 11 different players made a field goal.
Bucknell shot 48.6 percent overall, hitting season highs for field goal makes (35) and attempts (72). The 24 assists were a season high, and the five turnovers a season low. The Bison have now made 41 3-pointers in 81 attempts (.506) over their last three games.
The Leopards finished at 43.1 percent overall and hit 3 of 13 from long distance.
Bucknell entered the game already assured of the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament. This victory assured the Bison of sole possession of the regular-season title. In fact, with second-place Boston University losing at Army West Point on Wednesday, Bucknell now has a three-game lead over the Terriers and Lehigh (11-6), matching its largest cushion of the season.
“I really like where we are right now,” said Davis. “I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym with them tomorrow and getting ready for Navy. We still have things we can improve on, but our guys are really hungry. They are giving 100 percent effort, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Bucknell will look to stay hot on Saturday, when it closes out the regular season with a noon tip against Navy at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison will honor seniors Azzinaro, MacLeay and Ben Oberfeld prior to the game.