LEWISBURG, Pa. – Zach Thomas stuffed the boxscore with 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots and three steals, helping Bucknell to an 81-65 victory over Mount St. Mary’s on Monday night at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison broke open a tie game with nine minutes to go with a 22-5 run and are now 8-4 overall and 4-0 at home this season.
Kimbal Mackenzie also scored 16 points with four assists for Bucknell. Nana Foulland had 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, and Stephen Brown tallied eight of his 11 points in that decisive run at the end of the game.
Junior Robinson scored a game-high 20 points to lead Mount St. Mary’s (1-11), which came into the game having faced the sixth-toughest schedule in the nation.
Bucknell led 40-32 at the half, but Mount St. Mary’s high-pressure “mayhem” defense caused some problems for the Bison midway through the second half, allowing the Mountaineers to get back in the game.
Two free throws by Khalid Nwandu gave The Mount a brief 50-49 advantage – their only lead of the night. Thomas scored five straight, the last two coming on a steal and breakaway jam, to put the Bison back on top, but Miles Wilson tied the game at 54 with a layup with 9:11 remaining.
But that would be Mount St. Mary’s last field goal for a span of 7:23, as Bucknell used strong defense, improved free-throw shooting and good work against the press to quickly take over the game.
Brown was the catalyst, as he scored eight of the first 14 points in the decisive 22-5 run. He went coast-to-coast for a tough layup and then hit a nifty off-balance jumper from the elbow that made it a nine-point game. Brown then assisted on Mackenzie’s transition layup that stretched the lead to double figures at 70-59, and Thomas fed Matt O'Reilly and Mackenzie in opposite corners for 3-pointers to make it a 76-59 rout with 2:11 to go.
O’Reilly stamped the exclamation point on the night with another trey in the final minute, and the Bison earned a bit of retribution after falling to the Mountaineers in each of the previous three seasons.
“Mount St. Mary’s is a difficult team to prepare for and a difficult team to play,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “Their record is 1-11, but we know what kind of schedule they have played and they are much better their record. They are fast and athletic, and they want to make it an ugly game. But I was very proud of the toughness we showed down the stretch. Yes we had some turnovers and missed free throws in the middle part of the second half, but when we needed it most, we had guys step up and make plays.”
Bucknell shot 53.7 percent for the game and finished 7-for-15 from 3-point range. The Bison made only three of their first 10 free throws in the second half, but they made 11 of their final 13 to finish at 16-for-26 for the game.
Defensively, the Bison blocked nine shots – all by Foulland (5) and Thomas – and held the Mountaineers to 32.7-percent shooting on the evening. The nine blocked shots equaled the most ever by a Bucknell team in Sojka Pavilion.
Mount St. Mary’s was terrific at the foul line, making 21 of 25, and was 8-for-22 from the 3-point arc.
Both teams finished with 17 turnovers, but Bucknell had 17 assists to just six for Mount St. Mary’s. The Bison also had a 36-26 rebounding advantage and led 40-18 in points in the paint.
Bucknell led by as many as 11 on two occasions in the first half. A 10-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Nate Jones and a baseline drive by Ben Robertson, put the Bison on top 27-16. Later in the half, two straight buckets by Nate Sestina, who scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting, made it a 32-21 game.
Nwandu closed the first-half scoring with a layup for the Mountaineers, bringing them within eight at the break.
Bucknell has one more non-conference game remaining, a home tilt against Princeton on Thursday at Sojka Pavilion.