What: #13 Bucknell (26-8, 15-3 PL) vs. #4 West Virginia (26-8, 12-6 Big 12)
Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
When: Thursday, March 16, 2017, approx. 2:45 p.m. (30 min. after conclusion of 12:15 game)
TV: CBS | Watch Online
Local Radio: Eagle 107 (107.3 FM WEGH)
National Radio: Westwood One | TuneIn App
Satellite Radio: Sirius 134/XM 201
Internet Radio: WestwoodOne.com
NCAA GameCenter: NCAA.com
• COMPLETE GAME NOTES
Bucknell Probable Starters
G: Stephen Brown (10.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.8 apg)
G: Kimbal Mackenzie (11.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.4 apg)
G: Avi Toomer (3.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
F: Zach Thomas (16.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.5 apg)
C: Nana Foulland (14.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
How The Bison Got Here:
The Bucknell men's basketball team came into the 2016-17 season looking for some postseason redemption. The veterans in this group had captured back-to-back Patriot League regular-season titles, only to be upset in the early stages of the conference tournament. Just one year earlier, the Bison had suffered the ignominious distinction of becoming the first No. 1 seed in league history to be eliminated in the quarterfinal round, with that loss coming to the Cinderella Holy Cross squad that went on to win the tournament as the No. 9 seed. Even though that gut-wrenching, double-overtime loss to the Crusaders was rarely discussed publicly, this year's team was clearly on a mission to get over the hump and get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Mike Muscala-led Bison went in 2013.
Despite having to replace three starters from the 2015-16 team, it was clear early in the season that second-year head coach Nathan Davis would have an abundance of depth at his disposal. In most games, he would utilize every healthy player, often in the first half. After a 2-2 start, a major breakthrough came on Nov. 21 in Nashville, when the Bison rebounded from a lopsided loss at Butler two days earlier to knock off Vanderbilt, 75-72. Bucknell then went out and captured the "mid-major" pod of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational and came home to beat a very good Richmond team 73-68.
Bucknell produced a solid 8-5 record against a tough non-league schedule, and then started Patriot League play with four straight wins. The Bison had a brief setback with a home loss to Lehigh, but they responded with seven straight victories, all by double-digit margins. That run ended with another loss to preseason favorite Lehigh. Eleven days later came the biggest win of the regular season. A long bus trip to Boston University loomed on Feb. 19, and Bucknell's lead atop the Patriot League had been reduced to one game. The Terriers had a chance to tie the Bison for first place with only two games remaining in the regular season, but instead Bucknell dismantled its closest pursuer 86-66 and clinched the No. 1 seed in the process.
Bucknell took care of the service academies in its first two Patriot League Tournament games, handling eighth-seeded Army West Point 78-62 in the quarterfinals before gutting out a 70-65 win over No. 4 Navy in a foul-filled semi. That set the stage for a showdown with arch-rival Lehigh, the team that had handed the Bison two of their three conference losses during the regular season.
The championship game would be the 169th meeting between the two Pennsylvania schools dating back to 1902. The rivalry reached a crescendo earlier this decade, when future NBAers Muscala and C.J. McCollum helped their teams alternate league titles between 2010-13. In that duo's junior season in 2012, the Mountain Hawks defeated Bucknell for the championship at Sojka Pavilion.
So all sorts of redemption was on the line for the Bison last Wednesday, and this time everything went their way. Freshman Avi Toomer beat the buzzer to give Bucknell a 35-34 halftime lead — it was the ninth lead change in a wild first half — and then the Bison stormed out of the locker room with another 12 straight points to take command of the game.
Bucknell's stars all shined in the final, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Sojka. Tournament MVP Zach Thomas stuffed the boxscore with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Second Team All-Patriot League point guard Stephen Brown had 12 points, four assists and no turnovers. Third Team All-PL guard Kimbal Mackenzie logged a game-high 18 points, 14 coming in the second half. And Patriot League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Nana Foulland scored 17 points and blocked three shots in a big-time battle with Lehigh star center Tim Kempton, who had been the league MVP in each of the previous two seasons.
So now Bucknell enters the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time. A dozen years ago, the Bison cemented their "Giant Killers" reputation by upsetting Kansas as a 14 seed in the first round in Oklahoma City. A year later, Bucknell earned a best-ever No. 9 seed and knocked off Arkansas in the opening round in Dallas. This year's edition will be looking for its first NCAA win since that 2006 victory over the Razorbacks.
Is another March upset in the cards? All of Lewisburg is eagerly waiting to find out.
With a Win over West Virginia, Bucknell Would ...
• ... earn its third all-time NCAA Tournament win and advance to play either Notre Dame or Princeton in the second round on Saturday.
• ... improve to 2-0 against the Big 12 in NCAA Tournament play (defeated Kansas 64-63 in 2005).
• ... win its seventh game in a row and improve to 27-8 on the season.
• ... win as many as 27 games in a season for the third time in team history (28 wins in 2012-13; 27 in 2005-06).
• ... defeat the Mountaineers for the first time (0-8 in the series).
• ... defeat a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since Nov. 22, 2005 (74-69 at No. 17 Syracuse).
• Bucknell is in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time, after claiming the 2017 Patriot League regular-season and tournament double. The Bison swept Army West Point (78-62), Navy (70-65) and Lehigh (81-65) in the Patriot League Tournament.
• Bucknell is slotted as the No. 13 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga is the top seed in the West. Teams winning First and Second Round games will advance to the West Regional Semifinals in San Jose, Calif.
• The Bison will see some familiar faces at the Buffalo site. Jay Wright, the head coach of the defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova Wildcats, is a 1983 Bucknell graduate. Villanova's potential first-round opponent, Mount St. Mary's, is coached by former Bucknell manager of basketball operations Jamion Christian. Notre Dame assistant coach Ryan Ayers was on the Bucknell staff in each of the previous two seasons.
• The Bison are the No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. They had previously been seeded 9th (2006), 11th (2013), 14th (2005, 2011), 15th (1989) and 16th (1987).
• Bucknell won the Patriot League regular-season title outright for the third straight year and sixth time in the last seven years. The Bison joined Boston University as the only teams ever to win 15 Patriot League games, and Bucknell finished the regular season with a three-game cushion over Boston U. and Lehigh.
• When the Bison captured three consecutive outright (no ties) titles from 2011-13, it was the first time in Patriot League history that any team accomplished that feat. Now they have done it again, claiming outright titles from 2015-17. Bucknell was the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament for the eighth time.
• Over the last seven seasons, Bucknell is now 90-24 in Patriot League play with six regular-season titles.
• The Bison have not lost back-to-back games all season and are 8-0 in games following a loss.
• Bucknell's women's basketball team also captured Patriot League regular-season and tournament titles. This will be the first time the Bison men and women have been to the NCAA Tournament in the same season.
• When looking back on the regular season, the Feb. 19 win at Boston University will be viewed as the turning point. The Bison had a one-game lead over the Terriers going into that game, meaning a loss would have created a tie for first place with two games remaining. Instead, Bucknell turned in its most complete performance of the season, shooting 58.2% on the road in an 86-66 victory that clinched the No. 1 seed.
• Patriot League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Nana Foulland is now 117-for-182 (.643) from the field in his last 18 games. For the season, his 62.8 FG% ranks 10th nationally. That would be the third-best single-season mark in school history.
• Patriot League Tournament MVP and PL First Team All-Star Zach Thomas has been one of the league’s most versatile players this season. Thomas is the only Patriot League player who ranks in the top 10 in points (3rd), rebounds (6th) and assists (10th), and he is also the league's only player who ranks in the top 10 in all three shooting categories: field-goal percentage (9th), 3-point percentage (3rd) and free-throw percentage (3rd). In all, Thomas ranks in the top 15 in the Patriot League in eight different statistical categories.
• As a team, Bucknell ranks 25th out of 347 Division I teams with a field-goal percentage of 48.1%. The Bison shot 50% or better as a team 11 times in Patriot League play and 15 times total this season.
• Kimbal Mackenzie averaged 13.4 points per game in Patriot League play, the 11th-best mark in the league. He has four 20-point games this season, three of them coming against PL foes Navy (22), American (24) and Army West Point (23). In two of those games, Mackenzie was the catalyst in big comebacks on the road. He had 19 second-half points to help the Bison rally from 13 points down to beat Navy, and he scored 18 after halftime as Bucknell came from seven points down to defeat American. Mackenzie had a season and career-high 25 in a good home win over Richmond.
• Bucknell has gotten excellent play of late from senior John Azzinaro off the bench. Azzinaro’s minutes have gone up, and he is 19-for-36 (.528) from 3-point distance in the last 11 contests. That includes 4-for-4 showings from the arc against both American and Loyola.
• Bucknell went 8-5 against a tough non-conference schedule, including a 4-1 mark at home. This was Bucknell’s most successful pre-conference slate since 2012-13, when the Bison went 13-3 before the start of Patriot League action.
• Bucknell closed the month of November with a four-game winning streak that consisted of victories over Vanderbilt, Norfolk State, Northern Colorado and Richmond. The middle two came in Las Vegas, where the Bison claimed the “Upper Division” title at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. The 75-72 victory over Vanderbilt was the team’s first win over a Southeastern Conference team since 2006, when it took down Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the first victory over a “major conference” team since 2013-14, when Bucknell won at Penn State.
• West Virginia received an at-large bid to the tournament after going 26-8 and finishing as the runner-up in the Big 12 Tournament. The Mountaineers will play in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in 14 years. West Virginia is known for its high-pressure defense. The Mountaineers lead the nation in steals per game (10.4) and turnovers forced per game (20.4). Offensively, they average 82.0 points per game and have done it with a balanced attack. Jevon Carter leads the squad with 13.1 points per game, but seven others average at least 5.6 ppg.
How to Get the Game
• The Bucknell-West Virginia game will be televised live on CBS television and NCAA.com. Verne Lundquist will call the play-by-play, joined by color analyst Jim Spanarkel and sideline reporter Allie LaForce.
• The game can be heard in the Susquehanna Valley on the radio on Eagle 107 (107.3 WEGH), with Doug Birdsong on the call. The pregame show begins 30 minutes before tip-off.
• Westwood One Sports will provide national radio coverage, with play-by-play announcer Scott Graham and analyst Donny Marshall on the call. The broadcast will stream live online through the Westwood One website and will also be available on Sirius 134/XM 201 and via the Westwood One channel on the TuneIn mobile app.
• Follow @Bucknell_MBB for in-game updates on Twitter.
Bucknell vs. West Virginia
• Bucknell is 0-8 all-time against West Virginia, with all of those games played between 1923 and 1977.
• In the most recent meeting on Jan. 3, 1977 in Morgantown, the Mountaineers won 112-71. Current WVU coach Bob Huggins scored 14 points in that game, while Bucknell was led by Bob Barry with 28 points.
2/14/23 Away 25-23 L
2/5/34 Away 61-13 L
3/3/34 Home 57-18 L
2/8/35 Home 51-21 L
2/16/35 Away 48-23 L
12/18/48 Away 94-61 L
1/12/72 Away 88-73 L
1/3/77 Away 112-71 L
Patriot League Success
• Bucknell is 265-115 (.697) all-time in Patriot League regular-season games, the best record of any league team. The Bison compiled a .500 record in PL play for the 23rd time in 27 Patriot League seasons.
• Bucknell won three straight outright Patriot League regular-season titles from 2011-13, becoming the first team in league history to accomplish that feat. The Bison have now won another three in a row and six of the last seven, after clinching the 2017 title in Boston on Feb. 19.
• Bucknell has now won 11 Patriot League regular-season titles in 27 years. No other team has more than five.
• This year Bucknell made its eighth Patriot League Tournament appearance as the No. 1 seed.
• The Bison went 13-1 in the league in 2011 and 12-2 in both 2012 and 2013, making them 37-5 over those three campaigns. Dating back to mid-2010, Bucknell has won 97 of its last 123 league games.
• Bucknell won Patriot League Tournament titles in 2005, 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2017. The Bison have made it to the semifinals 20 times and to the championship game 11 times in the 27-year history of the league.
• The Bison are the only team to go unbeaten in league play in a season (14-0 in 2006).
• Bucknell’s consistency in league play even predates the Patriot League. Going all the way back to 1975-76, when the Bison played in the East Coast Conference, the team has had only eight seasons with losing conference records out of 42, and never more than two in a row.
Last Time Out
• In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Sojka Pavilion on March 8, top-seeded Bucknell used a dominant second half to defeat third-seeded Lehigh 81-65 and win its fifth Patriot League Tournament title.
• Patriot League Tournament MVP Zach Thomas finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and he recorded his 1,000th career point in the midst of Bucknell’s game-changing second-half run. Thomas totaled 53 points, 19 rebounds, 17 assists and five steals in the three postseason games.
• Kimbal Mackenzie (18), Nana Foulland (17) and Stephen Brown (12) also reached double figures for the top-seeded Bison, who improved to 26-8 and broke a school record with its 15th home victory of the season.
• Bucknell held a 35-34 lead at halftime and then outran third-seeded Lehigh 46-31 in the second half. The Bison led by as many as 19 points and outscored the Mountain Hawks by 21 points over the final 24:09 of the game.
• The final four minutes of the first half proved to be a key juncture of the contest. Foulland picked up his second foul guarding Lehigh star center Tim Kempton in the lane, and the two ensuing free throws gave Lehigh a 30-25 lead at the 4:09 mark, the largest margin for either side to that point. But with Foulland on the bench, the Bison closed the half on a 10-4 run to regain the lead. Avi Toomer closed out the half with a 3-pointer to make it 35-34 at the break.
• Toomer’s trey would eventually turn into a 15-0 run, as the Bison stormed out of the locker room with 12 more in a row. Foulland started it off with a 3-point play. Thomas scored in the lane and then fed Foulland for a jam. After another Thomas layup, Mackenzie knocked down a 3-pointer, and all the sudden it was a 13-point game at 47-34. The lead ballooned to 18 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Mackenzie and Brown, both assisted by Thomas.
• Lehigh did climb back within nine at 61-52 after a pair of Kempton free throws with five minutes to play, but in one of the biggest plays of the night, Mackenzie drove hard down the lane for a 3-point play that ended Bucknell’s scoring drought of over three minutes. Lehigh never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
• Bucknell shot 47.2% for the game and hit 8 of 24 from 3-point range. Lehigh shot 45.0% and hit 4 of 14 from the arc after going 19-for-36 in the two regular-season games against Bucknell.
• Bucknell’s 23 assists came on 34 made field goals, and its five turnovers equaled a season low. Toomer set career highs with six assists and nine rebounds, and Thomas turned in his fifth game of the year with at least seven assists from his power forward spot. All told, Bucknell’s starting backcourt tallied 13 assists and only one turnover.
Numbers Worth Noting
• During this six-game winning streak, Bucknell has held opponents to 37.4 FG% and 23.5 3FG%, and opponents have 58 assists and 80 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Bison are shooting 49.2 FG% and have 112 assists to only 72 turnovers while averaging 81.8 ppg.
• Against Patriot League foes (including the postseason), Bucknell outscored its opponents by an average of 12.5 points per game. The Bison had won 13 straight games by double-digit margins until the 70-65 semifinal win over Navy. The Bison had not won three straight games by 20+ points since 1928, but they had two such streaks this season, including one to end the regular season. All told, Bucknell has won 20 games by double-digit spreads this season, a new school record, and they rank 42nd nationally with an average score margin of +8.8 on the season.
• Bucknell has blown away the school record for made threes in a season. The Bison currently have 277. The previous mark was 234 set by the 2010-11 squad.
• Bucknell has 2,589 points and 915 made field goals this season, which are also school records. The 1988-89 team, which also went to the NCAA Tournament, previously held both marks.
• Bucknell will equal the school record for games played (35) when it takes the floor against West Virginia.
• Bucknell has allowed 80.6 points per game in its eight losses and 63.2 ppg in its 26 victories.
• Bucknell has posted three of its four biggest comeback victories on the road this season. They overcame deficits of 13 (Navy), 11 (Vanderbilt) and seven (American) to pull out good wins away from home. Bucknell also rallied from eight down to beat Boston University at home.
• Bucknell’s transition defense has been strong thus far. The Bison have given up only 123 fastbreak points through 34 games. They went three straight contests (Vanderbilt, Norfolk State, Northern Colorado) without giving up any fastbreak points. Meanwhile, Bucknell has scored 217 fastbreak points on the season.
• Stephen Brown leads the Bison in +/- with a +366 on the season, and he has been +30 or better in three of his last six games (he is +124 in those six games).
• This is the first season that Bucknell has had two players recording 100 or more assists since 1991-92 (Russell Peyton 118, Bill Courtney 108). This year Brown has 163 and Thomas 118.
• Bison opponents have shot 50% or better from the field only five times this season, and Bucknell is 0-5 in those games (Wake Forest, Butler, La Salle, Lehigh, Loyola). The Bison are 26-3 when holding opponents under 50%.
• Bucknell is averaging a solid 1.08 points per possession this season, while opponents are averaging 0.95.
• Bucknell has a +64 rebound margin in its last 19 games. The Bison are 16-0 this season when outrebounding their opponent.
• Mackenzie scored in double figures in two of his first 11 games of the season, but now he has 10 or more in the scoring column in 18 of his last 23.
• D.J. MacLeay averages 13.6 points and a team-high 13.7 rebounds per 40 minutes.
• Nate Jones is 6-9 3FG in his 11 games since returning from injury.
• Brown has 99 assists and 34 turnovers in his last 20 games. He leads the PL in assist/turnover ratio (2.6) on the season.
• Bucknell has attempted more free throws than its opponent in 19 of 34 games this season. The Bison are 17-2 in those games.