Bucknell Survives Test from Marist, Wins 71-65 for Best Start in 105 Years
Dec. 19, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Mike Muscala recorded 26 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and three steals to help Bucknell rally past Marist 71-65 on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison, who ended the game on a 20-9 run after trailing by five with 8:51 to play, improved to 11-1 on the season, their best start in 105 years.
Marist (4-7) had five players score in double figures, led by Devin Price and Jay Bowie with 13 apiece. Chavaughn Lewis scored eight of his 12 points from the foul line, and reserves T.J. Curry and Eric Truog notched 10 each. Despite a sub-.500 record, the Red Foxes have some impressive wins this season, including a 17-point throttling of Vanderbilt, and they gave the Bison all they could handle for the second year in a row.
"I thought Marist played really, really well at both ends of the floor," said coach Dave Paulsen. "I tip my hat to Marist, they did not play like a 4-7 team. Having said that, I was disappointed in our level of focus and execution. This was akin to our performance [in home losses] against Wagner two years ago and Loyola last year, but to our guys' credit, they got the stops down the stretch and found a way to win. We are happy to come out of it with a win, but I am concerned about the level of focus and execution in the previous 35 minutes."
In the year 1908, Christy Mathewson led all National League pitchers with 37 wins, William Howard Taft won the presidential election, and the Chicago Cubs captured their most recent World Series title. That was also the last time Bucknell had 11 or more wins through 12 games. That 1907-08 Bison squad finished the season a perfect 12-0.
Victory No. 11 was far from easy, however, as Price's tough 17-foot jumper capped a 13-2 run and gave Marist a 56-51 lead with 8:51 to play. The Bison locked in defensively the rest of the way, holding the Red Foxes to only two more field goals, but Bucknell still had to knock down some free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
Muscala continued his sensational month of December with another huge night, and his own personal 6-0 run gave the Bison the lead back. He scored inside off a nice feed from Ryan Frazier, made both ends of a 1-and-1, and then hit a short bank shot to put Bucknell ahead 57-56 with 6:11 to play.
Marist went back in front one more time on two free throws by Bowie, but Ayers tied it at 58-58 with a free throw, and then Bryson Johnson hit 2 of 3 from the line after being fouled on a 3-point shot, giving the Bison the lead for good at 60-58 with 4:07 to play.
After the final media timeout, Ayers hit a big 3-pointer from the right wing to make it a 5-point game. But after two Bucknell misses at the foul line, Curry answered with a trey to make it 63-61 with 2:18 left. Willman and Curry traded baskets to keep it a two-point game inside a minute to play.
With 45 seconds left Muscala was fouled on a drive and hit both to make it 67-63, but again Marist crept within two as Lewis hit both ends of a 1-and-1. The Red Foxes came into the game shooting 64.7 percent as a team from the foul line, but they went 16-for-17 in this one.
Willman was fouled on the inbounds with 31 seconds left and swished two critical free throws to make it 69-65. The Bison then rebounded three straight Marist misses and hit 2 of 4 at the line to close out the six-point win.
Bucknell also defeated Marist by six (74-68) last season in Poughkeepsie, as the Red Foxes stayed close with some hot 3-point shooting. They only made 5 of 18 from long range and shot 36.7 percent overall in this one, but this time Marist's strength was on the glass.
The Red Foxes came in at -7.9 in rebounding margin and Bucknell was a Patriot League-best +6.5, but Marist finished with a 37-35 edge on the boards and a 15-6 lead in second-chance points. The Bison did not have an offensive rebound in the first half, although they had six in the second, including three from Muscala that led to points.
Both teams led by as many as six in a back-and-forth first half, and fittingly the game was tied at 37 at the break. Bucknell bounded out of the locker room on a 9-2 run, keyed by two buckets each from Willman and Ayers. But Marist outscored the Bison 17-5 over a span of 5:36 to take that 56-51 lead. The Red Foxes went 6-for-9 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line in that stretch.
In five December games Muscala is now averaging 22.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.6 blocks. He leads the team in each of those categories on the season. Against Marist, he went over the 1,600-point mark for his career, becoming only the fourth Bucknell player to do that, and he jumped from eighth to sixth on Bucknell's career rebounding chart with 845.
With his five points against Marist, Johnson moved past his assistant coach Charles Lee into 22nd place on Bucknell's career scoring list with 1,148. Johnson also had four assists without a turnover in 37 minutes.
Bucknell held its opponent under 40 percent from the field for the 10th straight game. This was only the fourth time all year an opponent scored more than 60 points against the Bison, but they have won all four of those games.
The Bison entered the game ranked fourth nationally in fewest turnovers per game, and they had just six against Marist.
The Bison have played three games in the last five days, and they will make it four games in eight days when they travel to Princeton on Saturday at 7 p.m.