Bucknell Men Outlast Dartmouth, 62-49
Nov. 27, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - On a night when it was struggling offensively and the opponent was hanging around with some hot 3-point shooting, Bucknell used outstanding interior defense and free-throw shooting to hold off visiting Dartmouth 62-49 on Tuesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Mike Muscala (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Cameron Ayers (13 points, 10 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles for the Bison, who improved to 6-1 on the season.
Joe Willman added 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots, and Bryson Johnson had 10 points and five boards to help give Bucknell its 100th all-time victory in Sojka Pavilion and its seventh straight win over an Ivy League team.
The Bison jumped out to an early 12-2 lead, but Dartmouth (1-3) would knock down six 3-pointers in just over nine minutes. The last of those was a high-arcing trey by Alex Mitola that capped a 22-8 run and gave the Big Green a 24-20 lead with 4:10 left in the half.
Dartmouth hit 11 treys on the night compared to just one for Bucknell, but the bigger Bison limited the Big Green to only five field goals inside the arc and outscored them 29-6 from the free-throw line.
Bucknell held Dartmouth scoreless in the final four minutes of the half and went into the locker room with a 25-24 lead after Johnson made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left.
"We held them to 24 points in the first half, and we said if we could keep them to 48 for the game, then it doesn't matter if we win 50-48 or 70-48, just find a way to get it done," said head coach Dave Paulsen.
Johnson hit Bucknell's only 3-pointer of the night at the 14:26 mark of the second half, extending the team's streak to 265 straight games with a three and its lead to 35-31. Connor Boehm, the brother of former Bucknell pitcher Jack Boehm, quickly retaliated with a trey at the other end, and then a free throw by Malik Gill tied the game at 35 with 13:34 left.
The next two minutes belonged to Muscala, however, and the Bison never looked back. Muscala turned a nice feed from Ryan Hill into a dunk and a 3-point play, and he hit four free throws on Bucknell's next two possessions to start a tide-turning 9-0 run. Willman's free throws with 10:29 left put the Bison up 44-35.
John Golden hit a 3-pointer to pull Dartmouth within 45-40, but three key defensive plays in the final eight minutes proved big for Bucknell. The Big Green had the ball trying to cut into that five-point deficit, but Ayers stole the ball from Gill and took off down the floor, finishing a tough layup in traffic to push the lead back to seven. After two free throws by Ayers, the Bison turned in perhaps their best defensive possession of the night, as consecutive blocked shots by Muscala and Willman led to a shot-clock violation. Willman's jumper at the other end made it 51-40 with 5:35 left, but Golden made another 3-pointer to keep Dartmouth within striking distance.
It was a 51-44 game at the three-minute mark and Dartmouth was attacking after pulling in a long defensive rebound. But Hill took a charge on Golden, and then he sank two big free throws after being fouled on the inbounds.
Mitola hit one final rainbow three to make it 54-47 with 1:29 left, but the Bison went 8-for-8 from the foul line in the last 1:20 to put the game away.
"We have been struggling a little bit with our offensive rhythm," said Paulsen. "We just were not in a great flow, but a key tonight was when the offense was not going well, we did a lot of the little things you need to do to win a game. I thought we had good defensive energy and focus against a team that was playing inspired basketball."
Bucknell finished 29-for-34 (.853) from the line on the night to help overcome 36.4 percent shooting from the field. The Bison outscored Dartmouth 16-6 in the paint and had a 37-26 rebounding edge.
The Big Green shot 30.2 percent overall, making 11 of 27 (.407) from 3-point distance but just 5 of 26 (.192) inside the arc.
Mitola led Dartmouth with 12 points, while Golden and Jvonte Brooks had 11 each. Boehm added seven off the bench.
Muscala entered the game ranked 10th nationally in rebounding at 11.2 per game and second nationally in double-doubles with four. He made it five double-doubles in seven games to start the season, and 29 in his career, with his 17 points and 11 boards. Ayers recorded his second career double-double, with the other coming last March in the NIT victory over Arizona.
Bucknell is now 100-32 all-time in Sojka Pavilion. The 10th anniversary of the first game in Sojka will be coming up in January.
The Bison will be looking to keep their Ivy League winning streak going on Saturday night when they travel to Columbia for a 7 p.m. contest.