Bison Men Leap into Patriot League Semifinals with 87-63 Win over Navy
Feb. 29, 2012
NOTE: Tickets to Saturday's Patriot League Tournament semifinal game vs. Lafayette are now on sale via the ONLINE box office. Tickets may also be purchased over the phone (570-577-1000) or in person at the Weis Center Campus Box Office location beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, or in person at the Barnes & Noble Bucknell Bookstore starting at 9 a.m.
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Joe Willman scored 18 points and Bryson Johnsoncollected 15 on 5-for-7 shooting from long range, leading top-seeded Bucknell to an 87-63 rout of No. 8 Navy in a Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal game on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Now 23-8 on the season, the Bison shot a season-best 62.7 from the field and will move on to play fifth-seeded Lafayette in a semifinal game this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.
On a night when star center Mike Muscalaplayed a supporting role with two points on three shot attempts in just 20 minutes of action, the Bison received production from all corners of the roster. Thirteen of the team's 14 players entered the scoring column, and the bench produced 45 of the team's 87 points. A 28-10 run over the last eight minutes of the half gave Bucknell a 41-21 lead at intermission, the margin ballooned to as many as 31 in the second half, and no Bison player was needed for more than 24 minutes.
Johnson keyed that big surge at the end of the half with three of his 3-pointers. Cameron Ayers also hit a trey in that stretch and finished with 10 points. Bryan Cohen added seven points while helping limit Navy's top scorer Jordan Sugars to three points on the night. Off the bench, Brian Fitzpatrick logged eight points, while Colin Klebon and Steven Kasparhad six each.
Willman was terrific throughout, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the opening half before finishing 8-for-11 in 24 minutes. He also dished out three assists.
Point guards Ryan Hilland Kaspar both had very strong nights. Hill finished with five points, five assists and a career-high four steals, and Kaspar added four assists and a steal to his six points. Bucknell had 20 assists on its 32 field goals and went 8-for-15 from 3-point range.
Navy (3-26) also shot the ball well in certain stretches, hitting on 52.5 percent on the night, its best mark since the second game of the season. Isaiah Roberts enjoyed his third straight excellent game against Bucknell, finishing with a career-high 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, along with five assists and four steals. Roberts tallied 52 points in the three games against the Bison this season.
Bucknell got out to a quick start, racing to an 11-3 lead after Fitzpatrick's transition layup just 4:55 into the game. But that would be Bucknell's last field goal for exactly seven minutes. Fitzpatrick did add a pair of free throws in the middle of that dry spell, but after Worth Smith hit a short runner in the lane with 9:22 left in the half, the Bison lead was just 13-11.
That shot by Smith was Navy's first two-point attempt of the night. Navy's offense consisted of seven 3-point attempts and eight turnovers in the first 10:30.
Once the Bison got rolling again, they really got piping hot. Over a span of 7:30 late in the half, Bucknell went 12-for-13 from the field, and the only miss was a Johnson breakaway layup that Kaspar trailed and tipped back in. Johnson started the run with a couple of deep 3-pointers, and then Hill came up with a steal and fed Muscala for a fastbreak jam.
Johnson's third trey in less than two minutes gave the Bison a 26-15 lead, and after Smith hit a three for Navy, Willman scored eight of Bucknell's next 10 points to help open up a commanding lead. Willman's baseline jumper with 2:24 left in the half made it 36-21, and Ayers hit a 3-pointer and an elbow jumper in the final 90 seconds to give Bucknell a 20-point cushion at the break.
The Bison, who had shot just 38.4 percent as a team in the final four games of the regular season, went on to connect on 16 of 24 (.667) attempts in a 46-point second half. The biggest lead of the night was 31 points at 77-46 after a Joshea Singletonfree throw with 4:34 to play.
Bucknell finished with a 23-18 rebounding edge and set season highs for steals (10) and forced turnovers (22).
The Bison have advanced to the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament for the 17th time in 22 years in the league. There they will face hot-shooting Lafayette, which ended fourth-seeded Holy Cross' six-game winning streak with an 84-76 road victory on Wednesday night. The Leopards went 13-for-19 from 3-point range in that game and got 25 points from guard Rob Delaney, who hit all five of his long-range attempts.
Bucknell and Lafayette will be meeting in the Patriot League Tournament for the second straight year. Last year the Bison won 72-57 in the championship game at Sojka Pavilion. Bucknell also swept the season series from the Leopards this year, winning 79-65 in Easton on Jan. 14 and 90-78 at home on Feb. 11.
Saturday's semifinal game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.