WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nana Foulland scored 20 points and Bucknell rode a strong effort defensively and on the glass to an 80-61 win over American in the regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon at Bender Arena. Now 22-9 overall and 16-2 in the Patriot League, the Bison became the first team in league history to win 16 conference games in a regular season.
Bucknell had long since clinched the No. 1 seed for next week's Patriot League Tournament, but a few milestones were within reach in this one. Zach Thomas scored 16 points to break the Bucknell single-season scoring record -- his 651 points moved him past Mike Muscala's 637 in 2012-13 -- and he also passed Mike Bright to move into fifth on the career scoring chart, one spot behind Foulland.
Stephen Brown added 10 points and four assists, and Brown jumped past Pat Flannery into third place on Bucknell's career assists chart with 508. Foulland logged his seventh 20-point game of the season and also moved past Lorry Hathaway into fifth place on the Bucknell career rebounding chart with 877.
At 16-2 in league play, Bucknell’s fourth straight regular-season title comes by four games over second-place Colgate (12-6). The Bison are just the second team in league history to win the league by as many as four games. Holy Cross won by that margin in 2002-03. The Bison are now 106-26 in league play since the start of the 2010-11 season.
“To finish 16-2 in the league is a great accomplishment and it reflects how hard our guys have worked all season long,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “We will take some time to rest our legs a little bit and get refocused for the Patriot League Tournament. It will be great to get back home in front of our fans in a great environment in Sojka Pavilion.”
Coach Davis on the plan for preparing for Thursday’s quarterfinal game. pic.twitter.com/m6Zt090CB8— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) February 24, 2018
More thoughts from Coach Davis on the team’s outlook heading into the postseason. pic.twitter.com/SjppTvfre1— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) February 24, 2018
Bucknell last season and Boston University in 2013-14 were the only previous teams to win 15 Patriot League games in a season. The Bison surpassed that mark by winning their fifth straight game, 15th in their last 16, and 18th in their last 20.
Bucknell outscored American (6-23, 3-15 PL) 22-6 over the final seven minutes of the first half to build a 38-22 halftime lead. The Bison went on to lead by as many as 22 in the second stanza and cruised home from there to get to the 22-win mark for the 12th time in school history.
A 6-for-13 start from the foul line hindered the Bison in the first 10 minutes, allowing American to hang around after their own 1-for-10 start from the field. The Eagles tied the game at 16 when Larry Motuzis banked in a three from the top of the key, but Bucknell made its decisive run late in the half to put the game away.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Nate Sestina and Bruce Moore stretched the lead up to 10 at 28-18, and then Bucknell scored the final eight of the half, with points coming from four different players. Moore had a tip-in, Thomas an emphatic one-handed jam, Avi Toomer a nifty reverse layup off a Brown feed in transition, and then two free throws by Brown.
Three-point plays by Foulland and Thomas, a triple by Toomer, and a fastbreak layup by Brown in the first 2:49 of the second half gave Bucknell its largest lead of 22 points at 49-27.
The Bison managed one field goal over a stretch of just under five minutes as American crept within 12, but Bucknell ended the drought by finding Foulland deep in the paint for two, followed by a nifty pass from Jimmy Sotos to Nate Jones for a transition layup and a 55-39 lead.
The Bison shot 49 percent from the field and hit 5 of 15 from the 3-point arc and 25 of 36 from the foul line. They had a 40-29 rebounding advantage, and held American to 38.6-percent shooting.
Sam Iorio led American with 17 points, while Sa’eed Nelson and Larry Motuzis has 15 each.
Bucknell had a 24-7 edge in bench scoring, with Sestina scoring eight points and Moore and Jones six each.
Bucknell will host a Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal game against either No. 8 Loyola or No. 9 Army West Point on Thursday, March 1 at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion. Tickets are on sale ONLINE, over the phone at 570-577-1000 or in person during business hours at the Campus Box Office.