LEWISBURG, Pa – The Bison men’s basketball team turned stingy defense into efficient offense and defeated Lafayette 74-59 on Saturday night at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison forced 17 Leopards’ turnovers, converting them into 30 points, while committing only seven turnovers themselves. Bucknell (17-8, 11-1 PL) has now won 10 straight contests and has a three-game lead in the Patriot League standings.
Zach Thomas led the Bison attack with 20 points, reaching that mark for the 14th time this season, to go along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots. Stephen Brown scored 14 points with six assists and four rebounds, and Nana Foulland added 10 points and five rebounds.
The Leopards (6-17, 4-8 PL) received 19 points from Alex Petrie, but just five in the second half, and 10 points from Paulius Zalys in the loss. Lafayette was coming of a 93-point performance in a win over third-place Colgate, but the Bison held the Leopards to their lowest post total since Dec. 9 in this one.
Bucknell led for the final 36:35, but had a hard time shaking Lafayette. In the first half, the Bison saw an eight-point lead whittled to one, and then a nine-point margin cut to three.
Up 39-34 coming out of the halftime break, Thomas, Bruce Moore and Kimbal Mackenzie hit 3-pointers on the first three possessions to stretch Bucknell’s advantage to 48-34. But the Bison went five minutes without a point, and Justin Jaworski’s 3-pointer capped an 11-0 Leopards run to make it a three-point game.
Here's a look at the 3-point barrage to start the second half. pic.twitter.com/5OxKw0JUiY— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) February 4, 2018
Avi Toomer ended Bucknell’s drought with another trey, and that ignited an 11-0 retort that sent the margin right back up to 14. Toomer’s driving layup followed by another Mackenzie trifecta upped the margin as high as 19 at 70-51 with 4:22 to play.
Bucknell cleared the bench with two minutes to go, and the crowd roared as freshman Jordan Sechan hit a running bank shot for his first collegiate points.
The Bison hit 10 of 25 3-point attempts and shot 45.2 percent for the game. Bucknell got to the foul line only 12 times – half its season average – and converted eight. Lafayette shot 41.5 percent overall and hit 6 of 17 from the arc. The Leopards were 9 of 11 from the foul line.
Bucknell’s plus-10 turnover margin, which led to a 30-7 edge in points off turnovers, played a big role in the outcome. The Bison had 11 assists on 16 field goals with only two turnovers in the first half. The starting backcourt of Brown and Mackenzie combined for 11 assists and one turnover.
Thomas’s 14 20-point games is two shy of the Bucknell single-season record. Mike Joseph and Greg Leggett both had 16 in 1989-90, and Bill Courtney reached that mark 16 times in 1990-91. Thomas also moved up a spot on Bucknell’s all-time scoring list. He passed Jaye Andrews for seventh place with 1,553 points.
The Bison iso Zach Thomas on the wing, and he beats the shot clock with an and-1. Bucknell on top 64-51 with 6:05 to go. pic.twitter.com/91Jm2Qo506— Bucknell MBasketball (@Bucknell_MBB) February 4, 2018
Bucknell defeated Lafayette for the sixth straight time. The 10-game winning streak is now tied for the 12th-longest in school history, and tied for the sixth-longest within a single season. The team’s last double-digit run came in 2011-12, when the Bison won 12 straight.
That streak was broken up by Lehigh, and the Bison will look to avoid a similar fate on a short turnaround on Monday night in Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks helped Bucknell by beating second-place Boston University earlier in the day on Saturday, creating a three-game cushion atop the standings. Tip-off at Stabler Arena is set for 7 p.m., and the contest will be televised on CBS Sports Network.