Bison earn win in OT
LEWISBURG — The 2017-18 season was becoming fairly comfortable and routine for the Bucknell men’s basketball team entering its Wednesday night game at Sojka Pavilion against Army West Point. Following its latest win over Boston this past weekend, the Patriot League preseason pick to win the conference title had opened up a two-game lead in the league standings and entered the final stretch of the season with schedule backloaded with home games.
League seasons, though, aren’t typically comfortable and the Patriot League has been no different over the years. That was the case again last night against a team Bucknell had already beaten by 17 points earlier in the season. This time, the Bison faced a large deficit – one as big as 19 points in the first half before rallying for an 83-71 overtime win.
“We weren’t at our best early but you have to give a lot of credit for the character and heart we showed,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. “It was a great win and we are excited about it.”
The victory was Bucknell’s ninth in a row, continuing a streak that began in West Point on Jan. 5.
“We are going to get tested throughout and it’s not going to be an easy walk through Patriot League play,” said senior Zack Thomas, a veteran of many Patriot League battles. “We feel like we can win every game if we play our best and sometimes we don’t play our best every night so to be able to go out and be able to fight back and force overtime and win, it’s a good win for us.”
Army (12-10, 5-6 Patriot League) dropped its third consecutive game, including the last two where it had halftime leads of nine and 10 points on the road. After being outscored 47-27 in the second half at Loyola on Saturday, the Cadets were outscored 53-31 in the second half and overtime against the Bison (16-8, 10-1).
Thomas was responsible for much of that scoring. The senior poured in 25 points after the half and finished with a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. He added five steals and scored six of his points during the decisive 15-3 five-minute overtime period.
Army held Thomas to just seven first-half points and the Bison to 30 overall as they trailed by as many as 19 points. The majority of that advantage was built mostly on the strength of a 15-0 Army run. Kimbal Mackenzie, however, slowly pumped some life back into the Bucknell offense with a pair of 3-pointers near the end of the half to cut Bucknell’s deficit to a more manageable 10 points.
Army wouldn’t relinquish the lead too easily, however, in the second half with the benefit of some poor Bucknell foul shooting. After making 10 of 11 free throws in an otherwise dismal first half, Bucknell missed 12 of its 27 attempts in the second half. A Thomas free throw did finally tie the game with 7:42 remaining and his ensuing layup game the Bison their first lead since 6-5 just 3 minutes into the game.
The Cadets didn’t fold. A Tommy Funk layup with 3:29 left gave the visitors a four-point lead, but the Bison rallied again and forced overtime on a Nana Foulland post-up with 44 seconds left. Both teams had opportunities to win the game at the end of regulation but Army turned the ball over and Bucknell missed a pair of free throws and a last-second layup after the Cadets were called for an intentional foul on a Foulland breakaway.
Foulland, who finished with 15 points, came back in the overtime and gave Bucknell the lead with a layup with 4:03 left. Thomas followed with a pair of free throws and Mackenzie, who gave the Bison life with those back-to-back 3-pointers at the end of the first half, again lifted the top off Sojka Pavilion with a 4-point play to give the Bison a 77-70 edge with just 2:21 remaining.
The play wasn’t designed for the sharpshooter but he found himself open as Army West Point had its focus pinned on seniors Stephen Brown, Thomas and Foulland, who combined for 58 points.
“Those are probably the three best guys in the league on the same side of the floor so they are attracting a lot of attention and all I did was sit in the corner and shoot it and a guy happened to run into me,” said Mackenzie.
Mackenzie finished with 15 points and was the lone Bison to have any success from the 3-point line. He was 4-for-9, while the rest of the team was 0-for-11.
Brown added 15 points for the Bison.
Five Cadets reached double figures. Funk led the way with 13 points. Matt Wilson followed with 12 while Alex King and Jordan Fox had 11 each and Tucker Blackwell 10.
Bucknell hosts Lafayette on Saturday night. The Bison close the regular season with four of their final six games at home.
ARMY 71 (OT)
Morrison 2-5 0-0 4, Wilson 6-11 0-0 12, Kessler 2-4 0-0 4, Funk 4-11 4-5 13, Fox 4-13 1-1 11, King 5-7 0-0 11, Thiombane 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Madden 0-0 0-0 0, Blackwell 3-8 2-2 10, Grayson 2-9 2-2 6, Emezie 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-69 9-10 71.
Moore 0-0 0-3 0, Thomas 10-21 12-15 32, Foulland 6-10 3-9 15, Mackenzie 5-14 1-1 15, Brown 5-6 1-2 11, Sestina 1-2 0-0 2, Sotos 0-3 0-0 0, Toomer 0-5 8-8 8, Robertson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 25-38 83.
Halftime–Army 40-30. End Of Regulation–Tied 68. 3-Point Goals–Army 6-20 (Blackwell 2-4, Fox 2-4, King 1-2, Funk 1-3, Morrison 0-1, Kessler 0-2, Grayson 0-4), Bucknell 4-20 (Mackenzie 4-9, Sestina 0-1, Sotos 0-1, Brown 0-1, Toomer 0-2, Thomas 0-6). Fouled Out–Grayson, Fox. Rebounds–Army 33 (Wilson 9), Bucknell 37 (Thomas 11). Assists–Army 15 (Funk 8), Bucknell 9 (Brown 4). Total Fouls–Army 31, Bucknell 17. A–2,243 (4,000).