*Note: The final Backcourt Club Luncheon of the season will be held Thursday at noon at Matty's Sporthouse Grill in Lewisburg. Coach Nathan Davis and select Bison players will be on hand to answer questions. The $10 admission includes lunch.*
LEWISBURG, Pa. – Seniors Stephen Brown, Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland were honored during Senior Night ceremonies prior to the game and then went on to score 60 of Bucknell’s points in an 85-61 victory over red-hot Navy Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Brown led the way with a game-high 25 points, while Thomas added 23 and Foulland 12 as the Bison closed out their regular-season home schedule with a 12-1 record.
Bucknell (21-9, 15-2 PL) led by two points with eight minutes left in the first half, but used a 25-11 run to end the stanza with a 16-point lead. The Bison led comfortably throughout the second half, stretching their lead to as many as 28 points. Navy (19-11, 10-7) had won four straight and six of its last seven coming in. The Midshipmen dropped from a tie for second place into third place in the Patriot League standings with one game remaining in the regular season.
Bucknell shot 64.3 percent in the first half and finished the game at 55.6 percent. The three seniors were a combined 22-for-36 from the field and 7-for-12 from 3-point range. As a team, the Bison connected on 10 of 22 3-pointers.
“On the offensive end the ball really moved,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “We were active, got from spot to spot quickly, and guys made simple plays. It helps when Stephen goes for 20 in the first half. Give Hasan Abdullah credit for coming out and making shots, but after the first four or five minutes I thought we were much better defensively.”
Brown continued his stellar play against Navy. In Bucknell’s 87-67 win in Annapolis back on Jan. 24, the Bison point guard pumped in a career-high 27 points and hit 7 of 9 from 3-point range. This time he was sensational again, scoring 20 points in the first half alone while hitting 7 of 8 from the field and 4 of 4 from the arc. He tallied 42 points with 11-for-16 3-point shooting in the two games against the Midshipmen.
Brown also went over the 1,200-point mark for his career (1,215) and passed Dan Bowen, Joe Steiner and Lorry Hathaway to move into 20th place on Bucknell’s career scoring list.
Thomas equaled the school record for 20-point games in a season. This was his 16th, a figure previously achieved by Mike Joseph and Greg Leggett in 1989-90, and by Bill Courtney in 1990-91. Thomas hit 3 of 5 from long distance and led the squad with six rebounds.
Navy (19-11, 10-7 PL) was led by 19 points from Hasan Abdullah, who tallied 14 of the Mids’ first 16 points of the night. Ryan Pearson scored 14 and Shawn Anderson 10.
Both teams were on fire at the start, and Navy took a 16-13 lead after only six minutes of play after Abdullah stunned the crowd with his fourth 3-pointer of the game. Foulland scored with a jump-hook in the lane to give the Bison a 17-16 lead, but moments later he went to the bench at the 11:17 mark after picking up his second foul.
Already without starting guard Kimbal Mackenzie due to injury, the Bison received some big minutes from the bench and sensational play from Brown to stretch the lead all the way up to 48-32 by halftime.
The margin was just two at 23-21 when Brown skied to block a Mo Lewis transition layup attempt, and then at the other end Brown swished a 3-pointer to ignite a 12-2 run. Brown followed his trey with a nifty slashing layup, then he drew a charge on defense, and then Nate Sestina gunned a cross-court pass to Jones for a 3-pointer and a 31-21 lead.
Thomas and Brown hit 3-pointers in the final 2:20 of the half, and in the final minute Sestina made two free throws and Moore cut across the lane for a runner, which he turned into a 3-point play with 4.7 seconds left. Sestina blocked a shot at the buzzer, sending the Bison into the locker room with a comfortable 16-point lead.
Bucknell then opened the second-half on a 9-2 run, with Brown scoring five of the points. The Bison would lead by at least 20 for the final 14:15 of the night, after a Jimmy Sotos 3-pointer made it a 60-39 game.
With about four minutes to play, each of the three seniors exited one-by-one to loud standing ovations. This is just the second class in school history with three 1,000-point scorers, and it is the first to claim four straight outright Patriot League titles. The class now has an 83-47 overall record and a 54-14 mark in conference play.
Winners of 14 of their last 15 and 21 of their last 26, the Bison will wrap up the regular-season at American on Saturday at 2 p.m. Bucknell will be trying to become the first team in Patriot League history to win 16 league games in a regular season.