Bucknell men beat Army in Patriot League opener

LEWISBURG Everyone may be ready to crown the Bucknell men’s basketball team Patriot League champions after preseason favorite Lehigh lost top scorer CJ McCollum, but don’t count Bison coach Dave Paulsen in the group ready to anoint his team.

The fifth-year coach has told his players to ignore the headlines that pencil in the Bison for the NCAA tournament and approached them during a recent film study. He knows his team will get everyone’s best shot over these next six weeks and his team saw it early from Army on Saturday night.

The Black Knights raced out to a seven-point lead over six minutes before the Bison, playing for the first time since a tough-luck two-point loss at nationally-ranked Missouri last Saturday, collected themselves and ran away for a 76-55 Patriot-League opening victory at Sojka Pavilion.

“I wasn’t happy with how we came out of the gates,” Paulsen said. “I thought we were a little flat. We talked about that headline in the film session and that is the kind of thing that is going to motivate teams we play against us.

“We are going to get everyone’s best shot and we got their best shot,”?Paulsen said.

Army (7-9, 0-1) scored 11 of the game’s first 15 points before a 3-pointer from backup guard Steven Kaspar accelerated a Bucknell offense that missed its first six shots to open the game. Kaspar, who averages just 2.4 points a game, scored five points in just over a minute to help the Bison (14-3, 1-0) close to one point.

Army stretched its lead back to five with 9:59 remaining in the first half before Bucknell’s defense turned into the unit that ranks second in the Patriot League in points allowed at 59.1 points a game. After scoring 17 points in the opening 10 minutes, Army was limited to seven over the final 10 minutes. A Mike Muscala layup off an Ryan Hill assist gave Bucknell a 20-19 lead with 6:42 left in the first half and the advantage quickly grew to as many as 14 points as the Bison shared the ball with 10 assists on 13 first-half made field goals.

Muscala led the Bison in assists and finished just three assists shy of triple-double. He ended with 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

The senior, who is one of two Division I players who leads his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots, played only 10 minutes in the second half because Bucknell’s 12-point halftime lead continued to swell early in the second half. The Bison lead reached 21 points before the first media timeout.

Army made one small push and cut the deficit to 14 points on a Ella Ellis 3-pointer with 11:51 remaining, but Paulsen called a 30-second timeout and the Bison showed their maturity by never allowing the lead to dip below 14 points on their way to a 21-point victory.

Three Bison scored in double figures, including Joe Willman (18) on 8 of 12 shooting and Cameron Ayers (15) on 6 of 10 shooting. Willman moved to within six points of 1,000 for his career.

After struggling early from the floor, the Bison rebounded to shoot 48 percent, including 50 percent in the second half.

“I knew we had good shots and good opportunities that we were missing,” Muscala said, “and I knew we would eventually start making them and we did.”

Ellis, who averages 17.3 points a game, finished with 17 points for Army, but 15 came in the second half.

Bucknell’s 14-3 start is the second-best 17-game start in program history, behind the 15-2 run of the 1983-84 team. The 2013 Bison will look for win No. 15 Wednesday at Colgate.

ARMY (7-9)

Ellis 6-9 3-3 17, Toomey 4-9 0-0 10, Stire 2-3 0-0 4, Toth 3-8 0-0 8, Cox 2-5 1-2 6, Lenox 0-4 2-2 2, Kincade 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, M. Gramling 0-3 0-0 0, Lord 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 1-7 1-2 3, Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0, Plomb 2-5 1-2 5, Weldon 0-0 0-0 0, Rollo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 8-11 55.


Willman 8-12 2-3 18, Muscala 5-11 10-10 20, Hill 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 2-6 0-0 5, Ayers 6-10 0-0 15, Singleton 1-2 0-0 2, Kaspar 2-2 0-0 5, Fitzpatrick 0-3 2-3 2, Hass 1-3 0-0 2, Starkey 1-1 0-0 2, Frazier 1-3 0-0 3, Brackney 0-1 0-0 0, Hoffman 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 28-58 14-16 76.

Halftime-Bucknell 36-24. 3-Point Goals-Army 7-19 (Ellis 2-2, Toomey 2-2, Toth 2-4, Cox 1-3, M. Gramling 0-2, Lenox 0-3, Plomb 0-3), Bucknell 6-14 (Ayers 3-3, Kaspar 1-1, Frazier 1-3, Johnson 1-5, Hass 0-1, Singleton 0-1). Fouled Out-Ferguson. Rebounds-Army 28 (Cox 6), Bucknell 36 (Muscala 13). Assists-Army 12 (Cox, Ellis, Lenox, Toth 2), Bucknell 19 (Muscala 7). Total Fouls-Army 16, Bucknell 17. A-3,782.