Bucknell Men Pull Away From Cornell 72-56 to Improve to 13-2
Jan. 2, 2013
ITHACA, N.Y. - For the second year in a row Bucknell got all it could handle from Bill Courtney '92 and the Cornell Big Red, but the Bison outscored Cornell 15-4 over the last 5:36 and prevailed 72-56 at Newman Arena to get to 13-2 on the season. Cameron Ayers scored a game-high 16 points to help Bucknell equal its best 15-game start in program history, and the Bison became the first team in Patriot League history to get to 13 regular-season non-conference wins.
Bryson Johnson had a terrific all-around game with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists with only one turnover in 35 minutes. Mike Muscala recorded his ninth double-double of the season and 33rd of his career with 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks and four assists. Joe Willman also scored in double-figures with 10 points in only 17 minutes.
Willman spent most of the night in foul trouble, but Bucknell got some big minutes from Brian Fitzpatrick (4 points, 2 assists) off the bench. Point guard Steven Kaspar also was stellar off the bench down the stretch, scoring five big points and assisting on Johnson's dagger 3-pointer in the closing minutes.
Cornell applied aggressive full-court pressure from start to finish and forced 14 Bucknell turnovers, but the Bison had 20 assists on 28 field goals, shot 78.9 percent (15-19) in the second half and a season-high 62.2 percent for the game.
Josh Figini scored 15 points off the bench to lead the Big Red, who had their two-game winning streak come to an end and fell to 6-9 on the season.
Bucknell led by two at the half and by five after a 3-point play by Muscala, but Cornell came back with five straight points to tie the game at 34-apiece. Ryan Hill, who had seven points and three steals, put the Bison back in front with a 3-pointer, then stripped a Cornell player on a drive and went coast-to-coast for a layup. Johnson followed with a tough runner in traffic to give the Bison a 41-34 lead.
Cornell stayed in it with some 3-pointers and a handful of forced turnovers, but the Bison finally gained some separation around the five-minute mark. Leading by just five at 57-52, Johnson caught a skip pass from Willman and drained a 3-pointer. Willman then found Ayers for a backdoor layup, and Kaspar beat the shot clock with a contested 3-pointer to make it 65-52 with 3:59 left.
Bucknell got out to a great start, scoring on six straight possessions in a 12-0 run for an early 12-2 lead. Muscala assisted on four of those six buckets, including three to Willman. But Willman picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench with 13:59 left in the half.
With Willman out, Bucknell managed only two field goals over the next 11:30 as Cornell surged back ahead. Dominick Scelfo's second 3-pointer of the night pulled the Big Red within 17-16, and a fastbreak layup by Johnathan Gray give Cornell its first lead since 2-0.
The Big Red led by as many as five in the opening half at 24-19 after a Figini 3-pointer. Bucknell answered with a 9-0 run, that was highlighted by five quick points by Ayers and two assists from Ben Brackney in a solid stint off the bench. Cornell got a 3-pointer from Gilal Cancer and a jam by Shonn Miller to go back ahead 29-28, but Johnson came back with a 3-pointer and the Bison got a stop on the final possession to go into the locker room ahead 31-29.
Bucknell equaled the 1983-84 team for the best 15-game start in program history. The Bison improved to 25-23 in a closely contested series against Cornell, and they are now 9-1 in their last 10 games against the Ivy League.
Bucknell made its first nine free throws of the night before finishing 9-for-13, while Cornell left some points on the table with an 8-for-18 showing from the line. Cornell shot 36.4 percent from the floor and made 8 of 24 from 3-point range. The Bison outrebounded Cornell 34-24 and forced 10 turnovers.
The Bison play their final regular-season non-league game at No. 12 Missouri on Saturday at 4 p.m. (Eastern).