Bucknell wins PL Championship and earns NCAA berth

Bucknell's Avi Toomer (11) reacts as the clock runs out and Bucknell defeats Colgate 83-54 in an NCAA college basketball game for the Patriot League men's tournament championship in Lewisburg, Pa., Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

LEWISBURG–Bucknell coach Nathan Davis and his Bison needed a spark. The third-year coach looked to the court and saw Patriot League Player of the Year Zach Thomas struggling and when he looked down his bench, he saw the answer.

Nate Sestina jumpstarted Bucknell in the first half and that spark turned into a wildfire, gassed up by Stephen Brown in the second half.

Sestina scored 12 first-half points and spearheaded a 23-2 run and Brown solidified Patriot League Tournament MVP honors with a dominant second half as Bucknell turned an early close game into a rout with its 83-54 win over Colgate on Wednesday night in the Patriot League Championship at a sold out Sojka Pavilion.

Bucknell (25-9) won its second straight league championship and clinched its eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Brown, the three-time All Patriot League selection, scored 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half, and dished out six assists. After shooting 1 of 5 shots in the first half, he went 7 of 9 in the second half and capped his — as well as Zach Thomas’ (five points, 12 rebounds two blocks) and Nana Foulland’s (12 points, nine rebounds) –final game in Lewisburg with each receiving standing ovations.

“I thought we were a little stagnant early on. They (Colgate) do a lot of switching and so we were kind of just standing around and give Sestina a lot of credit,” Davis said. “He came in and hit a couple baskets, but I really thought it was his movement that opened it up for everybody. We started moving the ball and he started sprinting into screens and slipping out of them. It got him and other guys open.”

“The coaches and the players just kept encouraging me to keep shooting, they’re going to fall and keep being aggressive. I just kept trusting the work I put in and they started to fall,” Brown added.

Bucknell faced a 13-10 deficit midway through the opening half as it struggled to hit much of anything but once Sestina entered, the game was never close after that. The Bison went on a 23-2 run in the next 5:06 as they made 8 of 9 shots in the run, scored on 10 straight possessions and Colgate never got within single digits the rest of the way as the lead ballooned to 14 at the break. Sestina scored seven points in the run to put the game away early. The junior center finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

“Playing behind Nana and Zach all year, I understand that my role is to come in and do what I need to do to get the offense or defense moving,” Sestina said. “Get stops, get rebounds or whatever.”

The game became nearly ridiculous in the second half. Colgate got within 11 early in the half, but the game got out of hand quick. The Bison hit 5 of 6 3-pointers in the first eight minutes of the second half and then used a 26-7 run to increase its lead to 30 and then held its biggest lead minutes later on a deep 3-pointer from Brown.

The game and the Pavilion reached peak pandemonium when moments after Follund’s two-handed fastbreak slam, Colgate’s Dana Batt was called for a technical foul on a late hit to Brown.

Players danced to the music over the PA system and Brown capped an MVP performance on the next two possessions with a one-handed dunk from the 5-foot-11 guard and he followed that up with a stepback 3-pointer.

“The energy from the game, having everybody there, and just how everybody was playing (lifted us),” Brown said. “We didn’t do our best defensively in the first half and then in the second half we still didn’t do that well but our offensive flow was going and once we started getting stops with the crowd going, there is no better feeling than that environment.”



COLGATE (19-13)

Swopshire 1-9 2-2 4, Rayman 4-9 6-8 17, Batt 1-4 2-2 4, O’Brien 3-6 0-0 7, Burns 5-13 1-2 12, Baxter 0-0 0-0 0, Lindgren 0-1 0-0 0, Maynard 0-0 2-2 2, Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0, Amiel 0-0 0-0 0, J.Robertson 3-10 1-2 8. Totals 17-52 14-18 54.


Thomas 1-7 2-2 5, Foulland 5-7 2-4 12, Toomer 3-5 0-0 8, Mackenzie 3-9 0-0 8, Brown 8-14 1-4 22, Meeks 0-1 0-0 0, Sestina 7-9 1-1 16, Newman 0-0 0-0 0, Sotos 0-1 2-2 2, Jones 2-4 0-0 5, B.Robertson 1-1 0-0 2, OáReilly 1-2 0-0 3, Sechan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-60 8-13 83.

Halftime–Bucknell 35-21. 3-Point Goals–Colgate 6-17 (Rayman 3-3, O’Brien 1-3, J.Robertson 1-3, Burns 1-3, Swopshire 0-5), Bucknell 13-28 (Brown 5-7, Toomer 2-4, Mackenzie 2-7, Jones 1-2, O’Reilly 1-2, Sestina 1-2, Thomas 1-3, Meeks 0-1). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Colgate 31 (Rayman 11), Bucknell 33 (Thomas 12). Assists–Colgate 7 (O’Brien 3), Bucknell 18 (Brown 6). Total Fouls–Colgate 14, Bucknell 16. Technicals–Batt.