LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell scored 25 straight points as part of a 30-1 run in the early stages of the game, then cruised home from there, winning 82-60 over Navy on Senior Day at Sojka Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Kimbal Mackenzie tallied 18 points and seven assists, and freshman Bruce Moore set career highs with 14 points and seven rebounds to lead the Patriot League regular-season champion Bison, who closed out the regular season with a 23-8 overall record and a 15-3 mark in the conference.
“To finish 23-8 in the regular season is not bad at all, and we are very excited about it,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “But we know that a new season starts now. There are still some things that we have to work on if we want to win the ultimate prize, which is the conference tournament.”
Still feeling the emotions of the pregame ceremony, followed by senior Ben Oberfeld – out all year with an injury – making his first appearance for the opening tip, the Bison erased any doubt in this one over the first 12 minutes.
Navy scored first on a 3-point play by Bryce Dulin, but then Bucknell held the Midshipmen (15-15, 10-8 PL) without another field goal for nearly 11 minutes. John Azzinaro, one of the Bison seniors recognized before the game, ignited the 30-1 run with a 3-pointer. After a Shawn Anderson free throw for Navy made it a 5-4 game, Bucknell scored the next 25 points in a row, earning 15 straight defensive stops at one point.
Zach Thomas scored nine points in the run, including a bomb from about 27 feet away. Another Azzinaro trey made it 24-4, and by the time Stephen Brown converted a fastbreak layup it was a 30-4 game with 8:24 to play.
Ryan Pearson hit a jumper just inside the arc to break the Navy dry spell, but the Bison would go on to lead by as many as 29 points at 37-8 after a Nate Jones 3-pointer at the 4:35 mark.
Bucknell led 45-21 at halftime, then endured a foul-laden second half that was played at a snail’s pace. The two teams combined for 49 fouls and 60 free throws in a game that took about 2 hours, 15 minutes to complete.
Navy did get as close as 16 points on a couple of occasions, but Bucknell was able to get some points off the press-breaker to stretch it back out.
“We have had the ability all year to make runs, today it just happened to come early in the game,” said Davis. “Early on we were very crisp, we moved the ball and were flying around. I didn’t think we guarded particularly well at times, and we fouled too much. So we have some things to work on as we get ready for the tournament.”
Thomas (12) and Nate Sestina (11) also scored in double figures for the Bison, who shot 47.5 percent for the game, 53.1 percent in the first half. Bucknell won without the services of all-league center Nana Foulland, who sat out with an injury. Two other all-stars, Thomas and Brown, were limited to 22 and 17 minutes, respectively, due to foul trouble.
Brown and Azzinaro both finished with eight points. Moore went 8-for-9 at the foul line en route to his second double-digit scoring game of the year.
D.J. MacLeay also had a strong Senior Day with four points, six rebounds and a steal. Oberfeld has been unable to play this season due to injury, but Navy graciously agreed to let him take an uncontested opening tip. Oberfeld slapped the ball out of bounds, then came off the floor to a standing ovation.
“I want to thank Coach [Ed] DeChellis and the Navy program for allowing Ben to be able to do that,” said Davis. “It was a classy gesture on their part, and it gave Ben a moment he will remember for the rest of his life.”
Bucknell joined Boston University (15-3 in 2013-14) as the only Patriot League teams to win 15 league games in a season. Bucknell also became just the third team, and the first since the 2005-05 Bison, to win the Patriot League by at least three games.
Bucknell will begin postseason play by hosting a Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m., against an opponent to be determined. Navy will be seeded either fourth or fifth, depending on the outcome of games played later in the day.