Bucknell Men Ride Stifling Defense to 66-51 Win over Lafayette
Jan. 19, 2013
Please note the special start time of 6 p.m. for Wednesday's home game against Lehigh. The contest will air live on CBS Sports Network. All general public tickets have been sold out. Should any tickets be returned from the visiting team's allotment, they will go on sale at the Sojka Pavilion ticket window at 5 p.m.
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Mike Muscala posted 27 points and 15 rebounds, and Bucknell parlayed a terrific defensive effort into a 66-51 win over Lafayette and a 3-0 start in the Patriot League. Cameron Ayers scored 12 points and Joe Willman added 10 for the Bison, who are now 16-3 overall heading into a first-place showdown with Lehigh on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion.
Seth Hinrichs scored 12 points and Dan Trist had 11 for Lafayette (8-12, 1-2). The Leopards are always one of the league's most prolific 3-point shooting teams, but Bucknell held them to just one trey all night in 13 attempts. Lafayette shot a season-low 34.5 percent overall, and only once all night did the Leopards string together back-to-back points.
The Bison struggled offensively themselves for most of the first half, but they were able to open up a 26-16 lead during a 12-minute stretch in which they held Lafayette to just one field goal. Bucknell shot 36.7 percent in the first half but then made 51.4 percent in the second half.
On a night when they were slowed by an uncharacteristic rash of missed layups and free throws, the Bison made up for it with 15 offensive rebounds and only six turnovers.
Muscala needed a career-high 24 shot attempts to get his 27 points, as he went 12-for-24 from the floor. Nine of his 15 rebounds came on the offensive glass, including a thunderous follow-up jam that gave the Bison a commanding 61-45 lead with 4:26 to play.
Muscala came into the game tied for the national lead in double-doubles, and now he has 13 on the season. He now has five straight double-doubles and four straight games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. With his 27 points, Muscala jumped past Lehigh's Jose Olivero and Colgate's Adonal Foyle into seventh place on the Patriot League's all-time scoring list with 1,780 points.
The two teams alternated points for the first 11 minutes of the game before the Bison finally cobbled together a small run. Bucknell's first lead of the night came on a crazy sequence where Ryan Frazier missed a jumper, Steven Kaspar rebounded and sent an alley-oop pass too high in the direction of Muscala, Frazier hustled down the loose ball and then made a great feed back to Muscala for a dunk. Kaspar, who had a terrific game off the bench, followed with a drive down the lane for a layup, and Muscala put back his own miss to make it 16-11, and the Bison never trailed again.
A short jumper by Muscala and then a Muscala feed to Willman for a jumper made it 26-16 with 2:12 left in the half. Lafayette pulled within 27-20 at the break, but then Bucknell started the second stanza on a 13-5 run to open up a 40-25 lead.
Levi Geise's tip-in, followed by a short jumper by Trist with 12:54 left, constituted Lafayette's only four-point run of the night, but the Leopards never got closer than 11.
Muscala, frustrated by some rim-outs on close-range shots throughout the night, threw down two thunderous dunks on consecutive possessions as part of a five-minute stretch in which he scored 12 of Bucknell's 17 points.
"I was particularly pleased with our defensive effort," said coach Dave Paulsen after the game. "Lafayette can really put you in some difficult situations, so to hold them to 1-for-13 from three was really great for us. We were not always artistic offensively, but to get 15 offensive rebounds and commit only six turnovers bought us a lot of extra possessions."
At 16-3 Bucknell has equaled its second-best record after 19 games in program history. The 1983-84 squad started 17-2, and the Bison were also 16-3 in 2005-06. Bucknell is 3-0 in the Patriot League for the third year in a row and eighth time since the league's inception in 1990-91.
The Bison also recorded their eighth straight victory over Lafayette, which is now 0-15 all-time in Sojka Pavilion.
Johnson saw his career-best 28-game streak with at least one made 3-pointer come to an end with an 0-for-3 night from the arc. Johnson remains three treys shy of Kevin Bettencourt's Bucknell's career record of 294. Johnson still chipped in three assists and did not turn the ball over in 32 minutes.
Kaspar collected a career-high seven rebounds and had two assists with no turnovers in 20 minutes. Kaspar, Ryan Frazier and Ryan Hill all did a solid job on all-league point guard Tony Johnson, who finished with eight points and seven assists.
Bucknell outrebounded Lafayette 44-32. Both teams committed only six turnovers.
Bucknell and Lehigh are both off to 3-0 starts in league play. Wednesday's game will be a rematch of the 2012 Patriot League championship game, won by the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh and Bucknell were picked 1-2 in the Patriot League preseason poll, and the two teams will enter Wednesday's game with a combined 29-7 record.