Dec. 6, 2011
VESTAL, N.Y. - Joe Willman hit 8 of 10 shots and scored 16 points, and Bucknell ran out to a 20-point halftime lead before surviving some nervous moments down the stretch in a 77-63 victory at Binghamton on Tuesday night at the Events Center. Bucknell shot 61.4 percent from the floor and hit 6 of 10 from 3-point range in improving to 6-4 heading into the final exams break.
Cameron Ayers went 3-for-4 from the 3-point arc and scored 14 points, Mike Muscala had 12 points and nine rebounds and freshman Joshea Singleton led a strong bench effort with 10 points. Freshman Steven Kaspar made his first career start and stuffed the boxscore with seven points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Ben Dickinson scored 20 points for the Bearcats (0-7), while reserves Taylor Johnston added 14 and Jimmy Gray 10 off the bench.
Bucknell raced out to a 43-23 halftime lead behind 68 percent shooting from the field. The Bison made 17 of their 25 first-half attempts, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. They led by as many as 24 in the second half, but the Bearcats pulled within nine late thanks to some hot 3-point shooting and a rash of Bucknell turnovers and missed free throws.
Ayers got Bucknell going with treys on the first two possessions of the night. Muscala's dunk off a Kaspar feed made the Bison 4-for-4 and gave them a 10-3 lead. Their cushion grew to double figures for the first time at 17-6 after a Willman fadeaway jumper, but Binghamton stayed close with some 3-point shooting of its own.
The Bearcats first four field goals came from behind the arc, including two from Dickinson, who came into the game 2-for-15 from long distance on the season. Dickinson's treys were Binghamton's only two buckets in the first nine minutes of the game, but then treys by Jabrille Williams and Gray pulled the Bearcats within 19-13.
But the Bison soon pulled away behind a nice flurry from their freshman class. Kaspar answered the Gray 3-pointer with one of his own, and then Joshea Singleton scored six straight Bucknell points with some aggressive drives to the rim. He split the defense for one layup, turned a pretty backdoor feed from Kaspar into a 3-point play, and then drove again to draw a foul. Singleton made 1 of 2 at the line with 6:51 left in the half to give the Bison a 28-15 lead.
Bryan Cohen added a 3-point play on a strong drive down the lane, then Cohen slipped a bounce pass to Willman for an easy layup and a 41-23 lead. Brian Fitzpatrick made it a 20-point lead in the closing minute with a long jumper with a toe on the 3-point line.
Bucknell led by as many as 24 early in the second half, but the Bearcats made things interesting behind an unlikely source. Taylor Johnson, who had not scored a point all season, suddenly 11 points in less than four minutes, coming on five free throws and two 3-pointers. His second trey pulled the Bearcats within a dozen at 61-49 with 7:43 to play.
The Bison had an immediate response, however. Willman ended Binghamton's 8-0 run with a reverse layup off a feed from Muscala, then Willman spotted Ayers open for a 3-pointer from the left flank. Kaspar then slipped inside for a layup to complete a 7-0 run and restore a 19-point lead 68-49 with 6:10 to play.
Bucknell left the door open with some turnovers and missed free throws, through, and another Johnston 3-pointer capped an 11-1 run and pulled Binghamton within nine 69-60 with 1:06 to play.
Bucknell had a 1-for-6 stretch with two missed front ends of 1-and-1s, but Cohen and Ayers restored some order with six straight makes at the line in the final minute.
Bucknell played without starting guard Bryson Johnson, who was held out after suffering a minor injury in practice on Sunday. Johnson's streaks of 74 straight games played and 51 straight starts came to an end.
While they shot 61.4 percent from the floor, the Bison were just 54.8 percent (17-31) from the foul line, and they had 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second half.
Binghamton shot 33.3 percent on the night, with nine of its 17 field goals coming from long range. The Bison held the Bearcats top scorer, Robert Mansell, to one field goal and eight points.
Following a break for final exams, the Bison will be back in action on Saturday, Dec. 17 against Richmond at Sojka Pavilion.