RICHMOND, Va. – Zach Thomas scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, and Bucknell rallied from 14 points down to topple Richmond 86-78 on Tuesday night at the Robins Center. Nana Foulland added 13 points and 10 rebounds, Stephen Brown scored 12, and Nate Sestina led a big night for the Bison bench with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Bucknell improved to 5-7 on the season with one more non-conference game remaining on the schedule. Things were not looking good for the Bison for awhile, as Richmond used backdoor cuts and transition play to get layup after layup in the first 20 minutes. The Spiders (2-9) shot over 60 percent in the first half, and then they stretched an 11-point halftime lead up to 14 on a 3-point play on yet another backdoor cut on the first possession of the second half.
But the Bison found a way to lock down defensively from there. They eliminated those backdoor plays and forced the Spiders to shoot 29 percent (9-31) in the second half. Meanwhile, Bucknell got rolling offensively, with Thomas scoring 10 straight points for the team in one stretch. The Bison shot 59.3 percent in a 50-point second half.
“We are very pleased with this win against what I think is a good young Richmond team, even though their record might not show it yet,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “At halftime we were really struggling and were in a lot of trouble. We lacked focus defensively in the first half, and the backdoor cuts were a clear indication of that. But give our seniors a lot of credit. We fed off their energy defensively, and Nate Jones gave us a big lift off the bench as well.”
Richmond hit 12 of its last 16 shots in the first half and took a 47-36 lead into the locker room. Nick Sherod converted the 3-point play to start the second to give the Spiders a 14-point lead, but the Bison got back in it with a 16-6 run.
They forced nine straight missed shots in one stretch. A Sestina 3-point play made it a four-point game, and after Paul Friendshuh split a pair at the line, Sestina buried a 3-pointer to make it 54-52.
Bucknell had a few empty possessions, and Richmond got the lead back up to seven again at 63-56 on two free throws by Buckingham with 10:01 to go. But again the Bison had an answer. Jones hit a big 3-pointer, and as the Bison were locking down defensively, Thomas took the game over at the other end.
He hit two threes and two driving layups in his own personal 10-4 run that flipped a 64-59 deficit into a 69-68 lead.
The teams would swap the lead twice more before Brown’s floater in the lane broke a 70-all tie with 4:29 to go. Foulland then poked the ball loose and Jones saved it on the end line, and that led to another Thomas drive to the basket and a 74-70 lead.
Foulland came up with one of the biggest plays of the game at the 2:35 mark, when he tipped out a missed 3-pointer, and Jimmy Sotos snagged the rebound and drove all alone to the bucket for a layup and a 77-72 lead.
Three more stops led to free throws, and Brown hit six in a row in the final minute to ice it.
Bucknell finished at 49.2 percent for the game, including 9 of 20 (.450) from 3-point range. The Bison were 5-for-9 from the arc in the second half, and they outrebounded Richmond 36-33.
In addition to Sestina’s 10 points, freshman John Meeks scored a career-high nine points, Matt O'Reilly tallied six on a pair of treys along with two steals, and Jones had three points and four rebounds in addition to his stellar defense.
De’Monte Buckingham paced five Richmond players in double figures with 22 points along with eight rebounds and five assists. The Spiders received 72 of their 78 points from their starting five.
The Bison led by as many as five points at 18-13 after an O’Reilly 3-pointer and by four at 20-16 after a Sestina jam, but Richmond scored on almost every possession in the last nine minutes of the opening period. Led by 16 points from Buckingham, the Spiders shot 60.7 percent from the field, and they hit 4 of 7 from the 3-point arc and all nine free-throw attempts.
The game was knotted at 22 when the Spiders scored seven straight points, capped by a Buckingham 3-point play. They went up by double digits for the first time at 39-29 on a Nick Sherod 3-pointer, which was part of a stretch when Richmond went 9-for-10 from the floor and put back the lone miss.
Two free throws by Jacob Gilyard with 3.7 seconds left gave Richmond its biggest lead of the half at 11 points, and in a microcosm of the opening 20 minutes for the Bison, Sotos saw his runner at the buzzer go halfway down and spin out.
Thomas came in ranked 15th nationally at just over 22 points per game, and he will up that figure after posting 27 in this one. It was his eighth 20-point game of the season. Foulland went over the 1,400-point mark in his career and moved past former teammate Chris Hass into 11th place on Bucknell’s career scoring chart.
Bucknell wraps up the non-conference portion of its regular-season schedule on Friday at home against La Salle. Game time is 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.