Mackenzie, Bucknell top Lehigh in huge PL contest
By DEVIN BIERLY
LEWISBURG — Kimbal Mackenzie has always had the ability, the skill and the drive. He just played with three all-conference players, not leaving him with many offensive touches.
Now the senior leader, Mackenzie is taking his opportunity and running with it, closer and closer to a Patriot League regular season championship.
Mackenzie scored a game-high 27 points, with 15 in the second half, as Bucknell overcame another double-digit deficit and swept Lehigh for the first time since 2011 with an 87-75 win on Monday night at Sojka Pavilion.
Bucknell (17-8, 11-2 PL) now has a two-game lead over Lehigh (16-8, 9-4 PL) in the standings with five games remaining in the regular season.
Nate Sestina, who again battled foul trouble, came in late and shut the door on Lehigh with late back-to-back putbacks but it was Mackenzie who notched his fourth straight 20-point game, while adding five assists and three rebounds. The Ontario native scored nine points in a game-altering 15-1 Bison run that allowed them to overcome a double-digit deficit for the seventh time this season.
“Kimbal’s been a really good player for us for four years. The reason why he’s scoing 1,100 or 1,200 points, despite being, for three years, the fourth or fifth option. But he’s always found a way to make plays for us and it was no different tonight,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. “It’s been no different all year and we’re very fortunate that he’s on our team.”
“When you play with guys like Stephen Brown or Zach (Thomas) or even Nana (Foulland), you can kind of just give them the ball and let them do that. But I think myself, Jimmy (Sotos), Avi (Toomer), I think everyone who’s in there has the ability and the freedom,” Mackenzie said. “…I think any of us the capability to play and be creative.”
Bucknell fell behind by 11 midway through the first half, and things looked bleak when Sestina (15 points, 10 rebounds) headed towards the bench with his second foul. Mackenzie took notice and took over. He had nine points and three assists in the closing 24-16 run to get within three at the break. But he saved his best for the second half when Bucknell blew the game open.
Sestina picked up his third foul three minutes into the second half and he begrudgingly came off the floor. Lehigh, already up five, had another chance to take advantage. Instead, Bucknell went on a 31-8 run in the ensuing 10 minutes to gain a 16-point advantage. Within that run was a 15-1 spurt by the Bison that gave them a seven-point lead, capped by a Mackenzie 3 that forced a Lehigh timeout.
“I think if you look at it that way, you can get yourself in trouble in terms of trying to do too much, which I find myself doing sometimes, especially early on in the season,” Mackenzie said. “If we, as a group, play a little bit harder and dial things up a little bit more, then I think that takes care of that. It’s never a thought process of, ‘Oh, he’s out I got to go to work.’ It’s just, ‘All right, we’re down five, we’re down seven, lets get some stops.'”
Bucknell’s ability to limit Lehigh’s 3-point shooting also allowed it to take control. The Mountain Hawks came in as the best 3-point shooting team in the nation, hitting nearly 45 percent of its shots from beyond the arc. But the Bison’s ability to switch its athletic bigs on to quick guards helped them hold Lehigh to just 27 percent from 3. Bruce Moore (12 points, 3 rebounds) and Paul Newman did a great job of hedging and switching on the perimeter, forcing shots late in the shot clock.
“I think one of our advantages defensively is with our guys playing at the four and five,” Davis said. “When you’re playing a team that shoots as well as Lehigh does, obviously you want to take them off the line and be able to switch stuff. … That helps us tremendously and allows us to stay out of scramble situations and stay in front of guys.”
Bucknell 87, Lehigh 75
Andree 4-12 2-2 12, Karnik 9-15 3-5 21, Cohen 4-7 7-8 15, Leufroy 2-4 4-5 10, Tejada 3-12 2-2 10, J.Wilson 1-5 1-2 3, Porter 0-0 0-0 0, Lynch 2-2 0-0 4, Foley 0-0 0-0 0, Bennett 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 19-24 75.
Moore 3-8 6-9 12, Sestina 6-8 2-3 15, Toomer 2-6 0-0 5, Mackenzie 9-20 7-7 27, Sotos 2-9 6-8 12, Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Meeks 3-7 4-4 10, Newman 1-2 0-0 2, Robertson 0-0 0-0 0, Funk 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 28-65 25-31 87.
Halftime–Lehigh 38-35. 3-Point Goals–Lehigh 6-22 (Leufroy 2-2, Andree 2-6, Tejada 2-9, J.Wilson 0-1, Cohen 0-2, Bennett 0-2), Bucknell 6-24 (Mackenzie 2-5, Sotos 2-7, Sestina 1-3, Toomer 1-4, Ellis 0-1, Funk 0-1, Jones 0-1, Moore 0-2). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Lehigh 30 (Karnik 9), Bucknell 40 (Sestina 10). Assists–Lehigh 14 (Cohen 7), Bucknell 15 (Mackenzie, Sotos 5). Total Fouls–Lehigh 23, Bucknell 21. A–2,793 (4,000).