Nov. 8, 2007
WHAT: Bucknell (0-0) vs. Albany (0-0)
WHERE: Sojka Pavilion, Lewisburg, Pa.
WHEN: Saturday, November 10, 2007, 7 p.m.
TICKETS: 570-577-1000 or order ONLINE
RADIO: Eagle 107 and SportsJuice.com
LIVE VIDEO: SportsJuice.com
COMPLETE PRESS NOTES
With a Victory Over Albany, Bucknell Would ...
-- ... avenge an opening-night loss to Albany a year ago.
-- ... improve to 7-7 in season openers under coach Pat Flannery.
-- ... win its 11th consecutive home game.
-- ... improve to 4-2 against the Great Danes.
About The Game
Bucknell begins its 113th season of varsity basketball Saturday evening at Sojka Pavilion against two-time defending America East champion Albany. This is a battle of two of the nation's most successful "mid-major" programs in recent years. The Bison have won 24, 27 and 22 games in the last three seasons. In 2005 and 2006 they won Patriot League Tournament titles and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with victories over Kansas and Arkansas, respectively. Last season, Bucknell shared the Patriot League regular-season title with Holy Cross with a 13-1 conference record, but the Bison lost on the Crusaders' home floor in the PL championship game and did not receive a postseason bid to the NCAA or NIT tourneys. Albany won 21 games in 2005-06 and nearly upset No. 1 seed Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then last season the Great Danes won 23 contests -- their most at the Division I level -- and fell to Virginia in the NCAA first round. Head coach Will Brown's team lost two first-team all-conference players, including America East Player of the Year Jamar Wilson, but they return a preseason all-league pick in forward Brent Wilson and the defensive player of the year in Brian Lillis. Albany trots out a big starting lineup, with all five probables listed at 6'5" or taller.
Last Season vs. Albany
These two teams also kicked off the 2006-07 season at SEFCU Arena in Albany, and in a battle of reigning NCAA Tournament teams the Great Danes rallied from 15 down to defeat the Bison 55-49. John Griffin
scored a career-high 19 points and Jason Vegotsky
came off the bench to score 13 for Bucknell, which led 34-19 with a minute left in the first half but was outscored 36-15 the rest of the way. Jason Siggers led Albany with 17 points, while Jamar Wilson scored 12 and Brian Lillis 11. Bucknell led 49-48 with 2:25 left but was outscored 7-0 the rest of the way, with all the points coming from the free-throw line.
Bucknell vs. The America East Conference
The Bison own a 13-9 record against the teams that currently comprise the America East, including a 3-2 mark against Albany. Bucknell is also 6-2 against UMBC, 2-2 against Maine, 1-1 against Hartford, 1-0 against Boston University and 0-2 against Vermont.
Former Bison, Great Dane now Teammates in Europe
Two of these programs' best players in recent years have now joined forces in the pro ranks overseas. Charles Lee, a 2006 Bucknell graduate, and Jamar Wilson, the star of Albany's 2006 and 2007 America East championship teams, are teammates with Verviers-Pepinster in Belgium. Through seven games, Lee is averaging 11.7 ppg and Wilson 20.9 ppg for the 3-4 team. In their most recent outing, an 84-83 loss to Antwerp, Lee had 19 points on 8-for-8 shooting, while Wilson scored 34 points.
Last Time Out
In their lone exhibition outing of the preseason, the Bison routed East Stroudsburg 93-65 last Sunday at Sojka Pavilion (see p. 23 for complete recap and boxscore). Sophomore Patrick Behan led all scorers with 17 points, while Justin Castleberry (16), John Griffin (13) and Todd O'Brien (10) also scored in double figures. The story of the day for the Bison was their 3-point shooting. Bucknell made nine of its first 12 from long-range and finished 12-for-16.
Inside the Boxscore
-- Patrick Behan had a great shooting day, finishing 7-for-8 from the field and 3-for-3 from the 3-point arc.
-- All 12 healthy players saw action, and nobody played more than 22 minutes.
-- Bucknell had 21 assists on its 29 field goals, with 10 different players recording at least one helper.
-- John Griffin had five of Bucknell's 16 steals.
-- Josh Linthicum had a solid outing with six points (3-3 FG) and five rebounds.
-- Bucknell's largest lead was 43 points at 86-43.
New Roles in 07-08
With stalwarts Abe Badmus, Donald Brown and Chris McNaughton having graduated, and veterans Darren Mastropaolo and Jason Vegotsky injured at the start of the season, Bucknell will likely line up for the season opener against Albany with four first-time starters. Senior John Griffin has 38 career starts, including all 31 last season, but none of the other four probables have ever started a game at the collegiate level. Junior guard Justin Castleberry, sophomore forwards Stephen Tyree and Patrick Behan, and junior center Josh Linthicum are all expected to make their first starts against Albany.
Streaks to End for Mastropaolo, Vegotsky
Senior Darren Mastropaolo will see his consecutive games played streak come to an end at 92 on Saturday. Mastropaolo, who has been a mainstay in the Bison frontcourt since his freshman year, suffered a knee injury during a summer workout and is expected to miss much of the season. Junior Jason Vegotsky did not suit up for the exhibition game against East Stroudsburg due to a foot injury, and he may miss the start of the season as well. If so, Vegotsky's games-played streak will end at 44.
Three Captains Named
For the second straight year Bucknell elected tri-captains to lead the team. Seniors John Griffin, Darren Mastropaolo and Rob Thomas will serve as captains in 2007-08.
It appears likely that all three members of the freshman class will see significant playing time off the bench right away. Todd O'Brien will platoon with Josh Linthicum at center, Darryl Shazier will back up John Griffin at point guard and G.W. Boon will likely play a variety of roles on the wing. In Sunday's exhibition game, all three freshman played at least 18 minutes. O'Brien had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 18 minutes; Boon had eight points, two rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes; and Shazier had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes. The three rookies combined to go 8-for-15 from the floor.
Matt Fiery Joins Squad
Just before the start of preseason practice, Pat Flannery announced the addition of sophomore walk-on Matt Fiery to the varsity roster. Fiery, who will wear No. 24 at home and No. 5 on the road, is an electrical engineering major who averaged better than 21 points per game at Dulaney High School outside Baltimore.
Bucknell in Season Openers
Bucknell is 74-38 (.661) all-time in season openers and 6-7 under head coach Pat Flannery. The Bison have lost five of their last six lidlifters, including last season's opener at Albany.
Senior co-captain John Griffin was named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team for the first time in his career, joining Holy Cross' Tim Clifford, Navy's Greg Sprink, Lehigh's Marquis Hall and Army's Jarell Brown.
-- John Griffin ranks sixth on Bucknell's career 3-point field goals list (141). He needs 13 treys to catch fifth-place Gordon Mboya. Kevin Bettencourt holds the school record with 294.
-- Griffin needs 322 points for 1,000 in his career.
-- Seniors Griffin, Darren Mastropaolo and Rob Thomas need 14 wins to become the most successful senior class in school history. The Class of 2007 won a record 87 games.
Bucknell finished the 2006-07 season with a 22-9 overall record. The Bison have now reached the 20-win plateau nine times in program history, and for the first time ever, they have won 20 or more in three straight seasons.
Bucknell's All-Time 20-Win Seasons
1. 2005-06 27-5
2. 1983-84 24-5
3. 1988-89 23-8
4. 1992-93 23-6
5. 2004-05 24-9
6. 2006-07 22-9
7. 1991-92 21-9
8. 1979-80 20-7
Bucknell captured a share of the 2007 Patriot League regular-season title, tying Holy Cross for first place with a 13-1 conference record. After winning PL titles in 2005 and 2006, the Bison advanced to the championship game for the third straight season, where they dropped a close one on Holy Cross' home floor. The Bison are now 27-1 in the league over the last two seasons, and they have not lost to a PL team other than Holy Cross in regular-season or tournament play since Jan. 30, 2005, a span of 45 games.
In Good Company
Bucknell and Memphis are the only two Division I teams in the nation with only one conference loss over the last two seasons.
Hard to Beat
Bucknell last season was one of only eight teams in the nation with one or fewer conference losses, joining Memphis (16-0), Winthrop (14-0), Davidson (17-1), Ohio State (15-1), Vermont (15-1), Holy Cross (13-1) and Penn (13-1).
Patriot League Success
The Bison are now 155-69 (.692) in Patriot League regular-season games, the best record of any league team. They have finished at least .500 in PL play in 15 of 17 seasons. The Bison won a league-record 23 straight contests against conference foes from Feb. 23, 2005 to Jan. 12, 2007. Bucknell has an active streak of 35 straight wins at home against conference opponents, with their last home league loss coming on March 2, 2003 against Colgate.
Bucknell brought a 14-game winning streak into the 2007 Patriot League championship game. It was the longest modern-day winning streak in school history (the team won 17 straight from 1902-04 and 15 straight from 1901-02) and the third-longest streak in the nation at the time.
Home, Sweet Home
The Bison went 10-2 at home last season, including a 9-0 mark against Patriot League foes. That means that last year's senior class never lost a league home game, going 35-0 against PL opponents (28-0 regular season, 7-0 PL Tournament). Bucknell is now 49-9 (.845) in Sojka Pavilion since debuting in the facility on Jan. 15, 2003. The Bison take a 10-game home winning streak into the 2007-08 campaign.
The Bucknell basketball program has also enjoyed tremendous success in the classroom in recent years. Among the highlights:
-- Chris McNaughton last season became the first player in league history to win Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors three times. The electrical engineering major who was also a three-time first-team all-league player, was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District Team in 2006.
-- In the Patriot League's 17-year history, the league's men's basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year has come from Bucknell nine times.
-- Bucknell drew national acclaim at the 2006 NCAA Tournament last March for its perfect 100-percent men's basketball graduation rate. Bucknell's NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) was again 100 percent in last year's study.
-- The Bison men's basketball program easily met the national standard in the NCAA's Academic Performance Rate (APR) study, released last March.
-- Bucknell has claimed 114 national Academic All-Americans since 1970, including eight from men's basketball. The total of 114 ranks fifth among all Division I institutions, trailing only Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State and Stanford.
The Bison had gone 53 straight games without allowing a Patriot League team to score more than 70 points against them until Holy Cross did it in the 2007 PL championship game. Bucknell allowed only 57.8 points per game in 2006-07, the second-best mark under Pat Flannery and the ninth-best average in the nation. Since the start of the 2004-05 season, a span of 96 games, the only teams to score more than 70 points against the Bison are Memphis (72), Duke (84), Villanova (twice, 79 and 89), Santa Clara (77), Niagara (74), Wake Forest (86 in OT), Texas Tech (72) and Holy Cross (74).
Alumni in the Pros
Bucknell currently has seven alumni playing professional basketball:
-- J.R. Holden `98 has earned the most fame of any of Bucknell's basketball-playing alumni, particularly this past September when he hit the game-winning jumper with 2.1 seconds left to lift Russia to a stunning 60-59 upset victory over reigning world champion Spain in the Eurobasket 2007 championship game in Madrid. Holden, who has dual U.S. and Russian citizenship, will next suit up for the Russian national team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Throughout the year, Holden is the point guard for powerhouse CSKA Moscow, the top pro team in Russia.
-- Charles Lee `06 has played with the San Antonio Spurs summer league team in each of the last two seasons, and in 2006 he went through veterans training camp with the Spurs before being one of the team's final cuts. After a year in Israel, Lee is now a starter for Verviers-Pepinster in Belgium.
-- Boakai Lalugba `03 is entering his fifth season of pro ball. After previous stops in Sweden and Finland, as well as part of a season in the USBL, Lalugba is now with Bourg in France.
-- After playing in Germany last season, Bryan Bailey `02 is now in Bosnia with ASA BH Telecom Sarajevo.
-- All three 2007 graduates will be involved in the pro ranks as well. Abe Badmus was recently drafted by the Tulsa 66ers in the eighth round of the NBA Development League draft. Chris McNaughton plays for C.B. L'Hospitalet in Barcelona, Spain, and Donald Brown is the high scorer for U.M.F. Tindastoll in Iceland.
Who's Got Next?
Bucknell takes to the road for the first time in 2007-08 when it visits former East Coast Conference rival Towson on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Towson Center. These two teams met in a BracketBusters pairing last February at Sojka Pavilion, and the Bison prevailed 73-63.