Jan. 21, 2013
WHAT: Lehigh (13-4, 3-0 PL) at Bucknell (16-3, 3-0 PL)
WHERE: Sojka Pavilion, Lewisburg, Pa.
WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 6 p.m. ET
TELEVISION: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Eagle 107 (WEGH 107.3 FM) and SportsJuice.com
LIVE STATS: GameTracker
Complete Game Notes in PDF Format
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 on gameday at 5 p.m.
With a Win over Lehigh, Bucknell Would ...
... improve to 4-0 in the Patriot League and move into sole possession of first place.
... improve to 17-3 on the season, which would equal the best 20-game start in program history (the 1983-84 and 2005-06 teams also started 17-3).
... improve to 4-0 in the Patriot League for the third year in a row and seventh time since joining the league in 1990-91.
... avenge a pair of home losses to the Mountain Hawks last season, including one in the Patriot League championship game.
... improve to 8-0 at home this season.
... improve to 106-32 all-time at Sojka Pavilion and 72-14 against league opponents at Sojka.
Most Patriot League followers have had this one circled on their calendars since last March. Bucknell and Lehigh, the two clear-cut frontrunners in the Patriot League over the last two seasons, square off Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion in the first of two 2013 regular-season meetings. Bucknell is ranked third in the College Insider Mid-Major Poll, while Lehigh is eighth.
Lehigh was picked first and Bucknell second in the Patriot League preseason poll. The Bison are the defending PL regular-season champions, while the Mountain Hawks are the defending PL Tournament champs.
Last season Lehigh became the first team ever to win twice in Sojka Pavilion in the same season, claiming the regular-season clash 56-53 on a C.J. McCollum 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left and then taking the Patriot League championship game 82-77. Both teams went on to post first-round victories in the postseason. Lehigh knocked off Duke in the NCAA Tournament, while Bucknell ousted Arizona in the NIT.
Through Sunday's games, Bucknell is tied for sixth nationally with 16 victories, and the .842 winning percentage ranked 16th among all Division I teams.
At 16-3, Bucknell has equalled its second-best record after 19 games. The Bison were 17-2 in 1983-84.
Bucknell in the rankings:
Associated Press Poll: RV
USA Today Coaches' Poll: RV
CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll: 3
ESPN.com Mid-Major Poll: 3
RPI (from RPIforecast.com): 39
Ken Pomeroy computer ranking: 43
Jeff Sagarin computer ranking: 41
The Bison have been outstanding defensively this season. Opponents are averaging only 58.5 points per game, and Bucknell has held 14 of its last 17 foes under 40% shooting.
Bryson Johnson needs only three more 3-pointers to equal Kevin Bettencourt's program record of 294.
Mike Muscala is in the midst of an outstanding senior year for the Bison, and he has garnered frequent national mentions throughout the season. An All-America and NBA Draft candidate, Muscala leads the Bison in scoring (20.1), rebounding (11.2), assists (2.9), blocks (2.7) and FG% (.543). He leads the league in scoring, rebounding and blocks and ranks in the top 20 nationally in each of those categories (6th reb., 16th pts., 20th blk.).
Muscala earned his third straight Patriot League Player of the Week citation on Monday after two more big games against Colgate and Lafayette. Muscala has five PL Player of the Week honors this season, one shy of the league record, and nine in his career, which is second-most in league history to C.J. McCollum's 14.
Muscala is the only player in the country averaging at least 18 points and 11 rebounds per game. And there are only two players in all of Division I basketball who are leading his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots. They are Muscala and Princeton's Ian Hummer, who squared off at Jadwin Gym earlier this season.
Cameron Ayers (12.0), Bryson Johnson (11.2) and Joe Willman (11.1) are also scoring in double figures for the Bison, who average 69.2 ppg. Willman scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday at Colgate.
The Bison opened the campaign with wins over Purdue and George Mason, and then swept Niagara, New Mexico State and West Alabama at the Niagara Subregional of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project. Bucknell won all three of those games by double figures and improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2005-06. The first loss of the season came at Penn State on Nov. 23.
Bucknell returned four starters and 11 lettermen from last year's 25-10 squad. The lone graduated starter was 6'5" guard Bryan Cohen, who won each of the last three Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year awards. Despite that loss, the experienced Bison start three seniors and two juniors. Bucknell's starting five has a combined 527 career games played.
Lehigh has not missed a beat since losing All-America guard C.J. McCollum to a foot injury on Jan. 5 at VCU. In the four games since McCollum went down, the Mountain Hawks have won all four by an average score of 71-49. Three of Lehigh's last four opponents have scored in the 40s, and in the game in which McCollum suffered the injury, they limited high-flying VCU to only 59 points.
McCollum was leading the nation in scoring at over 24 points per game when he was injured (he is now at 23.9 ppg). Center Gabe Knutson averages 14.1 ppg, and Holden Greiner has had an excellent year, averaging 12.5 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game. Greiner is averaging 16.3 ppg and 7.0 rpg in league play.
How to Get the Game
The Bucknell-Lehigh game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network. Bob Socci handles the play-by-play duties, with former Army star Chris Spatola the analyst.
The game can be heard in the Susquehanna Valley on the radio on Eagle 107 (WEGH 107.3 FM), with Doug Birdsong and Terry Conrad describing the action. The pregame show begins 30 minutes before tip-off.
The audio feed is available online free of charge via BucknellBison.com and SportsJuice.com.
Live statistics are available on GameTracker via BucknellBison.com.
Bucknell vs. Lehigh
Bucknell has played more games (158) and won more games (97) against Lehigh than any other school. The Bison have a 97-61 lead in a series that originated in 1902.
Since the start of Patriot League play in 1990-91, Bucknell holds a 37-15 advantage, including a 20-5 mark at home.
Lehigh and Holy Cross share the record for most wins over Bucknell in Sojka Pavilion (4).
Lehigh is responsible for snapping Bucknell's 35-game home winning streak against Patriot League foes. The Bison had not lost to a conference opponent at Sojka Pavilion in nearly five years, until the Mountain Hawks won 56-54 in Lewisburg on Jan. 30, 2008.
Lehigh also won the first game ever played in Sojka Pavilion, a 60-56 decision on Jan. 15, 2003. Including that game, Bucknell is 8-4 against the Mountain Hawks in Sojka.
The road team won all three meetings last season. The Bison won 68-61 in Bethlehem behind 20 points and 12 rebounds from Mike Muscala. The Bison held C.J. McCollum to 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting in that one. McCollum got his revenge a few weeks later, hitting a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to give Lehigh a 56-53 win. Both stars struggled in that one, as Muscala had 10 points and 12 boards but shot just 3-for-12 from the field. McCollum was just 4-for-12 for 15 points, including the buzzer beater. Joe Willman had a terrific performance with a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Patriot League championship at Sojka Pavilion was a sensational game, with Lehigh making a game-saving defensive stop in the final seconds in what became an 82-77 win. McCollum led the Mountain Hawks with 29 points and Gabe Knutson had 23, while Muscala piled up 30 points and 14 rebounds for the Bison.
Patriot League Success
The Bison are 203-94 (.684) in Patriot League regular-season games, the best record of any league team. They have finished at least .500 in PL play in 18 of 22 seasons.
Bucknell has won the last two Patriot League regular-season titles, and it is trying to become the first team to win three outright titles in a row.
The Bison went 13-1 in the league in 2011 and 12-2 last year, making them 25-3 over those two seasons. Dating back to 2010, Bucknell has won 36 of its last 41 league games.
Bucknell won Patriot League Tournament titles in 2005, 2006 and 2011. The Bison have made it to the semifinals 17 times and to the championship game nine times in the 22-year history of the league.
The Bison are the only team to go unbeaten in league play in a season (14-0 in 2006).
Last Time Out
Bucknell turned to its defense in a 66-51 victory over Lafayette on Saturday at Sojka Pavilion. The Leopards are a dangerous 3-point shooting team, but the Bison limited them to 1-for-13 from the arc and a season-low 34.5% overall from the floor.
Mike Muscala enjoyed another stellar night with 27 points and 15 rebounds, his fourth straight 20-10 performance. Muscala set a new career high with 24 field-goal attempts, and his 12 made FGs were one shy of his personal best. Muscala scored 12 of Bucknell's 17 points in a key second-half segment that stretched out the lead.
Cameron Ayers recorded 12 points and six rebounds. He made Bucknell's only two 3-pointers of the night and is now 7-for-10 from the arc in his last three games.
Joe Willman also reached double figures with 10 points to go with six rebounds.
With Muscala and Willman scoring in the paint, the Bison rarely needed to shoot from 3-point range. Only six of the team's 65 shots came from beyond the arc. Bryson Johnson saw his streak of 28 straight games with a made trey come to an end.
Steven Kaspar was strong off the bench with a career-high seven rebounds along with two points, two assists and no turnovers in 20 minutes. Kaspar, Ryan Hill and Ryan Frazier were terrific defensively, as Lafayette's starting backcourt of Tony Johnson and Bryce Scott went a combined 4-for-16.
Bucknell defeated Lafayette for the eighth straight time and improved to 14-0 against the Leopards at Sojka Pavilion.
Several Bison are chasing significant milestones:
Mike Muscala needs 193 points to become Bucknell's all-time leading scorer (Al Leslie had 1,973) and 220 to become the program's first 2,000-point scorer. If Bucknell plays the minimum number of games it could possibly play the rest of the way (12), Muscala would have to average 16.1 points to catch Leslie.
Muscala needs 73 rebounds to join Hal Danzig as the only players in program history with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Muscala needs 35 blocked shots to catch school record-holder Mike Butts, who had 278.
Bryson Johnson needs three 3-point field goals to equal Kevin Bettencourt's Bucknell career record of 294, and he is 11 shy of the Patriot League record of 302, set by American's Garrison Carr.
Cameron Ayers needs 127 points for 1,000 in his career.
Starting off on the Right Foot
Bucknell's 16-3 start is tied for second-best in program history. The 1983-84 team was 17-2 after 19 games.
If Bucknell can defeat Lehigh to get to 17-3, it would match the best 20-game start in team history. The Bison were also 17-3 in 1983-84 and 2005-06.
Bucknell became the first team in Patriot League history to record 13 non-league wins in a regular season. Fordham (1990-91) and Lehigh (2011-12) previously won 12.
Free Throw Advantage
By limiting their own fouls and shooting 20.5 of their own free throws per game, the Bison have outscored opponents 291-199 at the charity stripe this season. In fact, Bucknell has made the same number of free throws as its opponents have attempted.
Bucknell ranks 11th nationally in fewest fouls per game (14.4).
Of all of the gaudy statistics surrounding Mike Muscala this season, perhaps the most important is that Muscala averages only 1.9 fouls per game, allowing him to stay on the floor for about 32 minutes per game. In fact, only Joe Willman (2.2) and Ryan Hill (2.0) average 2+ fouls per game.
As a team, Bucknell is shooting 74.8% from the foul line to rank 25th nationally. Bucknell's top four scorers -- Muscala, Ayers, Bryson Johnson and Willman -- shoot 81.4% (223-274) from the stripe.
For the most part, Bucknell has played stellar defense this season against a strong schedule. The Bison are allowing only 58.5 points per game, which ranks No. 1 in the Patriot League and No. 30 out of 347 Division I teams.
Bucknell has allowed more than 60 points in a game only six times all season, and four those came in victories.
The last time Bucknell yielded less than 60 ppg in a season was 2006-07 (57.8).
Bison opponents are shooting 37.5% from the field. That is the best FG% defense figure in the Patriot League and the No. 17 mark in the nation.
Purdue (.459), George Mason (.400), Princeton (.510), Missouri (.429) and Colgate (.426) are the only teams to shoot 40% or better against the Bison this season, and George Mason is the only one to do it at Sojka Pavilion. Bucknell held 10 straight opponents under 40% in one stretch, and 14 of their last 17 opponents have failed to reach that mark.
Cleaning the Glass
Bucknell has a +5.2 rebounding margin this season.
The Bison have outrebounded 14 of their 19 opponents so far this season and been even on the glass once, and that includes outrebounding a Missouri team that was No. 1 in the nation in rebounding at the time. The only teams to get more boards than Bucknell are Penn State, Marist, Princeton and Colgate. Perhaps not coincidentally, Penn State and Princeton are responsible for two of Bucknell's three losses this season, and the Marist and Colgate games were close at the end before the Bison prevailed.
Since the start of last season, Bucknell has only been outrebounded 12 times in 44 games.
The Bison are 13-1 this season and 52-5 over the last three seasons when winning the battle on the glass.
Bucknell now has three 1,000-point scorers on the roster. Mike Muscala and Bryson Johnson both hit the 1,000-point mark last season, and Joe Willman got there against Colgate on Jan. 16.
Bucknell and Santa Clara are the only two programs in the country with three active 1,000-point scorers.
Bucknell has never had four 1,000-point scorers on the same roster before, but that could happen this year if Cameron Ayers can reach that milestone. Ayers has 873 points.
And They Get it Done Off the Court Too
All three of Bucknell's 1,000-point scorers made the Dean's List in the fall semester.
Bryson Johnson (economics) posted a stellar 3.83 grade-point average, while Mike Muscala (management) and Joe Willman (management) both recorded a 3.58. The entire Bison roster combined for a 3.0 GPA in the fall, with freshman Ryan Frazier leading the way with a 3.92.Playing from Ahead
Bucknell has only trailed in the second half in seven of its 19 games this season. In addition to the three losses, the Bison also fell behind in the second half against Purdue, Niagara, Columbia and Marist before rallying to win.
Bucknell has yet to trail in the second half of a Patriot League game. In fact, there has not been a second-half lead change in any of the 12 Patriot League contests entering this weekend.
Who's Got Next?
Bucknell will play on CBS Sports Network again on Saturday when it travels to Holy Cross for a 4 p.m. tip.
The Hart Center was the site of Bucknell's only conference road loss last season, as the Bison lost there 54-52 on the heels of a home setback against Lehigh.
The Crusaders are 10-8 overall, 2-1 in the Patriot League heading into Wednesday's game at Lafayette.