STONY BROOK, N.Y. – It was the Zach Thomas show at IFCU Arena on Sunday. The senior forward finished with a career-high 38 points along with 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals to lead the Bison to an 85-76 win at Stony Brook. Thomas posted the 11th-highest single-game point total in team history while nearly recording a triple-double, and he helped Bucknell to its third straight victory.
Thomas hit 10 of 17 shots from the field, 5 of 9 from 3-point range, and a perfect 13-for-13 from the charity stripe. He surpassed his previous career high of 31 points, set in this year’s opener at Monmouth. Thomas has now recorded at least 20 points in six of the team’s seven games this season and is averaging 25.4 points per game.
“Any time you win on the road you have to do a lot of things well,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “I thought we really grew defensively in the first half, which allowed us to get our footing offensively after a slow start. Now we just have to do it for 40 minutes. Of course Zach really helped us out when we needed it.”
Thomas’ game was epitomized by a 90-second stretch in the second half. After Stony Brook had cut a 14-point deficit to six at 50-44, Thomas converted his third 3-point play of the game. Then Thomas stole the ball, dribbled upcourt and fed Jimmy Sotos in the left corner for a 3-pointer. Thomas then forced a turnover with strong low-post defense and coaxed a missed layup with good help defense, which led to a transition layup for Stephen Brown and a 58-44 lead.
Stony Brook came in averaging better than 10 made 3-pointers per game, and they hit 6 of 12 in the second half to hang in the game. A Bryan Sekunda trey got the Seawolves as close as five at 68-63, but Thomas answered with a drive to the basket for a lefty layup, and after Stony Brook missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Thomas fed Sotos for a trey to restore a double-digit lead.
In the late stages, Stony Brook got it to seven after a 5-for-11 stretch at the foul line, but Kimbal Mackenzie hit one of the biggest shots of the game for Bucknell, a top-of-the-key 3-pointer off a low-post kickout from Nana Foulland. That made it 78-68 with 3:43 to play. Stony Brook would hit one more 3-pointer, but the Bison iced it with a tremendous performance at the free throw line.
Bucknell made their first 23 charity tosses of the game before missing its final attempt with 31 seconds left in the game. Had that fallen, the Bison would have set a school record for most made free throws in a perfect shooting game. The current mark is 22-for-22 against Lafayette in 1988-89. Bucknell also holds the Patriot League record with a 21-for-21 performance against Richmond in 2011-12.
While Thomas led the way with his 38 points, Bucknell’s most since Chris Hass had 40 at Army in 2015-16, three others hit double figures. Foulland tallied 11 points, while Sotos and Bruce Moore had 10 each.
Brown had five assists for the Bison, who had 20 assists on 25 made field goals. Bucknell shot 41.7 percent from the field and was 12-for-29 from 3-point range.
The Bison got out to a frosty start, missing their first six shots while falling behind 9-2. They got going with a couple of interior looks to Foulland and later tied it at 18 on a trey by Sotos.
Thomas scored Bucknell’s last 15 points of the first half, going on his own personal 15-7 run to give the Bison a 40-31 lead at the break. Those 15 points came in five sets of three, as Thomas canned three from beyond the arc – including one bomb from about 32 feet – and also finished a pair of 3-point plays, the last coming with one second on the clock.
“The best part of Zach’s performance was that the game ended and I had no idea that he had 38 points,” said Davis. “He really let the game come to him and didn’t force anything. The seven assists were just as important as the point total. Zach is in complete control of his game right now. He is communicating, his leadership is tremendous, and as well as he is playing, he is working hard every day still trying to get better.”
After shooting 36.2 percent in the first half, Stony Brook shot 56.5 percent in the second to finish at 45.6 percent for the game. The Seawolves, who entered the game with a 39-9 record in the IFCU Arena since the facility opened four years ago, were 8-for-21 from the arc but left some points at the foul line, finishing 16-for-28.
Bucknell improved to 3-4 on the season, while Stony Brook fell to 1-5. Both teams have faced similarly difficult early season schedules, with the Seawolves’ other losses coming to Maryland, Michigan State, Connecticut and Ball State.
The Bison face another tough road test on Wednesday when they travel to Philadelphia to face Saint Joseph’s.
Bucknell Single-Game Scoring Records
Al Leslie vs. American, 1/12/80
Jim Wherry vs. Penn State, 12/18/67
Kevin Bettencourt vs. St. Francis (Pa.), 12/6/03
Joe Steiner vs. LaSalle, 2/7/62
Al Leslie vs. West Chester, 2/18/81
Joe Steiner vs. Lehigh, 2/25/61
Chris Hass vs. Army, 1/2/16
Lorry Hathaway vs. Delaware, 3/2/65
Patrick King vs. Lafayette, 2/1/92
Brian Anderson vs. Colgate, 2/2/94
Zach Thomas vs. Stony Brook, 11/26/17
George Haines vs. Lebanon Valley, 1/19/42
Al Leslie vs. Rider, 1/31/80
Bill Courtney vs. St. Francis (Pa.), 12/8/90
Marty McKibbon vs. Dickinson, 2/26/52
Mike Butts vs. Duquesne, 12/21/87
Joe Gallagher vs. Rutgers, 2/5/52
*Indicates modern record; John Anderson scored 80 points against Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1903