ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Senior point guard Stephen Brown scored a career-high 27 points, hitting 7 of 9 from 3-point range, helping Bucknell to its seventh straight victory, 87-67 over Navy on Wednesday night at Alumni Hall. Now 14-8 overall and 8-1 in the Patriot League, the Bison shot 56% overall, hit 11 of 22 from the arc, and had only 10 turnovers against the league’s No. 1 ranked defensive team.
Zach Thomas was tracking on a triple-double for much of the night before finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Nana Foulland battled through foul trouble to record 14 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes, and Avi Toomer led a strong bench effort with 10 points.
Bucknell shot 68 percent in the first half and hit 8 of 13 from the 3-point arc en route to a 47-33 lead at the break. Brown hit five of those treys in six tries, including a zone-breaker with 36 seconds left to close out the first-half scoring. The Bison would go on to lead by as many as 22 in the second half, and they recorded their sixth straight road victory and ninth straight win over the Midshipmen (13-9, 4-5 PL).
“I thought we played with great focus and purpose today,” said head coach Nathan Davis, who was a former assistant coach at Navy. “It certainly helps when you are making shots like we did tonight, but even when we hit some droughts offensively, we guarded them and made them make tough shots.”
With second-place Boston University winning at Lafayette on Wednesday, Bucknell maintained a one-game lead over the Terriers heading into the teams’ clash in Boston this Sunday. Boston University is responsible for Bucknell’s lone conference setback thus far.
Trailing 9-7, the Bison made their move with a 19-2 run to go up 26-11. Brown hit back-to-back treys on the heels of a Kimbal Mackenzie triple, and Toomer finished a driving layup and a deep 3-pointer to close out that spurt.
Brown’s fourth bomb of the night stretched the lead up to 20 at 39-19, but after a 15-for-20 start, the Bison went nearly five minutes without a field goal as Navy got back in it. The Midshipmen cut it to 12 at 41-29 on two free throws by George Kiernan, but Bruce Moore ended the drought with a right-wing 3-pointer.
Bucknell started 1-for-8 from the floor in the second half but quickly got into the bonus. The Bison hit 13 of 16 second-half free throws after going just 5-for-12 in the first half.
With the lead at 15 nine minutes into the second period, Foulland was on the receiving end of Navy’s second flagrant foul of the night. He split a pair of free throws, and then on the restart he finished in the paint while absorbing another foul, and Foulland finished the 3-point play for 61-42 lead.
One possession later Foulland flushed home an alley-oop off a beautiful feed from Mackenzie. Brown followed with an easy layup to send the lead back over 20.
Sweet alley-oop from Kimbal to Nana! pic.twitter.com/qzpx3rg7IQ— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) January 25, 2018
Navy did have one last push, getting within 73-60 after two free throws by Kiernan. Bucknell got two defensive stops, and then Brown hit a dagger three with 4:43 left, followed by a Toomer tip-in. By the time Thomas made two free throws with 2:21 to go, the lead was a game-high 22 at 85-63, and the starters got the rest of the night off.
Brown’s previous career high was 23 points, coming against Maryland and Lehigh earlier this season. His previous high for 3-pointers in a game was five against Lafayette last season. The seven treys were the most by a Bison player since John Azzinaro hit seven against Holy Cross in 2015-16.
Not only did Brown hit 9 of 14 from the field, 7 of 9 from the arc, and 2 of 2 from the foul line, he added five rebounds, two assists, no turnovers and no fouls in 29 minutes. And defensively, he helped limit Navy point guard Hasan Abdullah to five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
“We are at our best when Stephen is going full-speed and putting pressure on the defense,” said Davis. “Zach and Nana get a lot of the notoriety, and deservedly so, but don’t lose sight of the great career that Stephen has had. He has a chance to be a 1,300-point scorer in addition to doing everything else that he does defensively and running our offense. In many ways, we go as Stephen goes.”
Thomas recorded his 10th double-double of the season and 22nd of his career. His seven assists equaled a season high and was one shy of his career best. Thomas entered the night leading the nation in free-throw attempts, and he went 8-for-10 in this one. It was the 10th time this season that Thomas attempted at least 10 charity tosses, and he is now averaging 9.3 attempts per game.
Bucknell is now 17-1 in its last 18 meetings with Navy, including the nine straight wins. The teams will square off again in Lewisburg on Feb. 21.
Bucknell’s game at Boston University tips off Sunday at noon. The contest will be televised on CBS Sports Network.