Bucknell Men Tighten Up on D to Pull Away from Loyola, 66-46
Dec. 28, 2012
BALTIMORE, Md. - Mike Muscala recorded 29 points and eight rebounds, and Bucknell locked in on defense after a slow start to run away from Loyola (Md.) 66-46 before a sellout crowd at Reitz Arena on Friday night. The Bison bounced back nicely from just its second loss of the season last Saturday at Princeton, and they improved to 12-2 to match the best 14-game start in program history.
Bryson Johnson had a terrific all-around game, producing 11 points, five assists and two steals while also holding Loyola scoring leader Dylon Cormier to 5-for-15 shooting. Joe Willman added 10 points and eight rebounds while helping limit standout forward Erik Etherly to one field goal and three points. Cameron Ayers had 10 points, and his mark, Loyola 3-point sharpshooter Robert Olson, did not make a trey and scored six points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Only the third team in Patriot League history to win 12 non-league games, Bucknell avenged last season's 72-67 home loss to the Greyhounds, who will be joining the Patriot League next season. Cormier finished with 13 points to lead Loyola, which fell to 9-4 on the season.
This was a matchup of two teams ranked in the top 25 of the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll - Bucknell No. 6 and defending MAAC champion Loyola No. 20 - the two teams came in with a combined record of 20-5.
After a slow start defensively, Bucknell stormed ahead with a 20-5 run to end the first half and led 34-23 at the break. The Bison extended that lead to 18 at 50-32 on Willman's 15-foot jumper with 10:29 left. From that point on, Bucknell just had to deal with Loyola's swarming press. Not only did the Bison not turn the ball over against the press, they beat it for transition points on four occasions, including a thunderous dunk from Muscala off a Johnson feed on a 2-on-1 break. The Bison had only nine turnovers in the game, under their season average of 9.6, which is fourth-best in the nation.
Loyola got within 12 on a couple of occasions in the final eight minutes, but each time the Bison had an answer. The Greyhounds went 1-for-12 from the 3-point arc and 5-for-11 from the foul line in the game and could not get any closer.
"This was a great bounce-back after losing to Princeton on the road and then taking a break for Christmas," said coach Dave Paulsen after the game. "We did remember what happened against Loyola in our gym last year. We said this game would tell us a lot about our makeup and our toughness, and I was proud of the way we responded. We played very unselfishly. Our guys turned down good shots to get great shots, and that was a key for us for most of the game. And this was as good as we have played on defense all year against a really good team."
Loyola got layups on each of its first five possessions of the night and started the game 8-for-10 overall. Bucknell had a run of missed shots in the lane at that time but still never let Loyola build a lead of more than six. The Greyhounds were up 18-14 when the Bison really got going. A nifty spin move by Muscala followed by a Willman layup off a sweet feed from Steven Kaspar tied the game at 20.
Loyola went back ahead on an Anthony Winbush layup, but those would be the Greyhounds' last points for nearly six minutes. A pair of Kaspar free throws tied the game and ignited a 14-0 run. Johnson's 3-pointer after an offensive rebound from Muscala gave the Bison the lead for the first time and started a string of six straight possessions with points.
Willman tipped in a Muscala miss, Muscala scored on a backdoor feed from Johnson, Johnson hit a fader in the lane and Ayers turned a steal into a breakaway layup to give Bucknell a 32-20 lead.
Meanwhile, the Bison tightened up defensively. After that 8-for-10 start, Loyola finished the half 3-for-18 and finished the game shooting 35.7 percent. The Greyhounds' only bucket in the last six minutes of the half was an Eric Laster 3-pointer with 35 seconds left, but Muscala scored with 0:03 on the clock to make it 34-23 at the half.
Loyola came in averaging 66.1 points per game but was held under 50 for the first time all year.
Muscala went 13-for-21 from the field and tied his season scoring high. He now has 1,670 career points, tying Hall-of-Famer Mike Bright for third place on Bucknell's career list. Muscala also passed Hall-of-Famer Mike Butts to move up one spot into fifth place on the career rebounds chart with 864.
Bucknell shot 49.1 percent from the floor even with a 1-for-8 showing from the 3-point arc. The Bison were 13-for-14 from the foul line, including a perfect 8-for-8 in the second half.
Bucknell finished the 2012 calendar year with a 28-6 record. The 12-2 record equals the 1901-02 and 1983-84 teams for best 14-game starts in program history.
The Bison are back in action on Jan. 2 at Cornell.