RICHMOND, Va. – Nana Foulland recorded 23 points, 14 rebounds and four assists – all career highs – but the Bucknell men’s basketball team dropped a hard-fought 85-79 decision to VCU in front of the 106th consecutive sellout crowd at Wade Arena. Zach Thomas added 16 points, Jimmy Sotos had a career-high 13, and Nate Jones tallied a season-high 10 for the Bison, who battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the second half.
Justin Tillman paced the Rams (6-5) with 26 points and seven rebounds, and Jonathan Williams tallied 17 points and six rebounds.
A battle between longtime coaching friends Nathan Davis and Mike Rhoades came right down to the wire, as it was a one-possession game in the final 15 seconds. VCU made a late surge to take a 46-36 lead at halftime, but Bucknell (4-7) opened the second stanza on a 17-6 run and it was a thriller from there.
“I thought our guys played extremely hard tonight, and we played with focus for long stretches but a couple of lapses hurt us after we took the lead there in the second half,” said Davis. “VCU is big and strong and fast and well-coached. Give them a ton of credit, they made a couple more plays than we did down the stretch.”
Facing a 10-point deficit coming out of the locker room, Bucknell opened the second period on a 17-6 run to regain the lead. Jones scored eight of those points, Foulland had six, and a Thomas trey off a feed from Brown gave the Bison a 53-52 edge with just 5:08 into the half.
VCU went back up by four on a De’Riante Jenkins 3-point play, but Foulland found a cutting John Meeks for a jam, and then Sotos swished a 3-pointer to give the Bison the lead back.
It was 64-61 after a Stephen Brown pull-up in the lane, but then three Bison turnovers in the lane led to a game-changing 10-0 run for VCU. Marcus Silva-Santos sent the Rams back ahead at 65-64 on a short baseline jump hook, and then another takeaway led to a transition 3-pointer by Mike’l Simms.
Bucknell came up with a couple of stops, but could not capitalize with a missed three and another turnover, and then Santos-Silva converted a 3-point play to make it a 71-64 game with 7:42 left.
The Bison hung in there with the capacity crowd at full throat. Back-to-back layups by Jones and Nate Sestina made it a three-point game at 71-68. Later Sotos buried a trey off a skip pass from Brown to make it 77-75, but Malik Crowfield answered with three from deep in the left corner push the margin back to five with 1:56 to go.
Foulland scored in the lane to get Bucknell back within three with 53 seconds left, and then the Bison caught a horrible break. Foulland blocked Tillman’s shot in the lane, but the ball fell right back into Tillman’s hands and he dropped it in with 23 seconds to go.
Thomas made 2 of 3 after being fouled on a 3-point try with 12 ticks left, but Williams made 1 of 2 with 9.8 seconds left for a two-possession lead. Brown’s deep three rimmed off, and Tillman finished it off with a pair of charity tosses with less than a second to play.
Bucknell shot an even 50 percent for the game and hit 8 of 26 from 3-point range. The Bison had an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers – they came in ranked 21st nationally with 11.0 per game – but they handled VCU’s “havoc” full-court press well. Of the 17 turnovers, only three came from guards, and the Rams were held to four fastbreak points.
Bucknell recorded a 33-29 edge on the glass and led 15-6 in second-chance points. VCU shot 47.5 percent overall and 7 of 18 from the 3-point arc. VCU was also 20-for-23 from the foul line, while Bukcnell was 13-for-16.
Foulland now has 1,399 career points, as he moves closer to becoming the 12th Bison with 1,400 in a career. He jumped past Bryson Johnson into 12th place on the career scoring chart. Foulland missed his first shot in this one but immediately tipped it back in, and then he never missed again. He finished 9-for-10 from the field and 5-for-5 from the foul line. It was the fourth time in his career he scored 23 points in a game. The 14 rebounds surpassed his previous high of 13, done three three times. Foulland had a double-double by halftime, giving him 17 in his career.
Bucknell led for most of the first 10 minutes of the game, including by as many as six at 17-11 after consecutive buckets from reserves Meeks, Ben Robertson (3-pointer) and Sestina.
But VCU answered with a 17-4 run, holding the Bison to two field goals for a period of about seven minutes. Crowfield, back in the lineup after a four-game injury absence, hit his second trey of the half to give the Rams a 33-23 lead.
Treys by Sotos and Thomas – the latter from about 30 feet – helped the Bison climb within four, but Williams scored all eight of VCU’s points in an 8-2 run over the final 3:12 of the half. His contested trey with 0:05 left gave the Rams a 46-36 lead at the break.
In addition to the Davis-Rhoades connection -- both were assistant coaches together at Randolph-Macon, and Rhoades was a star player for former Bison coach Pat Flannery at Randolph-Macon -- former Bucknell standouts Donald Brown (director of sports performance) and Dom Hoffman (graduate assistant coach) are both currently on the VCU staff. In addition, VCU assistant J.D. Byers (Randolph-Macon), graduate assistant Lamont Moore (Randolph-Macon) and director of student-athlete development Mike Venezia (Colgate) were also coached by Davis.
Bucknell remains in town to face Richmond on Tuesday at 7 p.m.