BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bucknell broke open a tie game with a 15-4 run midway through the second half and held off Lehigh down the stretch to beat the Mountain Hawks 61-55 on Monday at Stabler Arena in a game shown on CBS Sports Network.
The Bison improved to 22-5 overall and 9-2 in the Patriot League, moving one game ahead of Lehigh (18-7, 8-3) for first place in the standings. Bucknell also became the first team to clinch at least one home game in the Patriot League Tournament.
It was the fifth consecutive game in the series won by the road team, all coming in the last two seasons. Bucknell has won its trip to Lehigh in each of the last three years. The Bison improved to 34-5 in the Patriot League since the start of the 2011 season, with a 17-3 road mark in that span. Bucknell also became the national leader with 11 road victories this season. The teams split the season series for the fourth time in five years.
Bucknell took a 9-1 lead in the early minutes, and held the advantage throughout the first half until Lehigh scored the last six points of the period to take a 24-23 edge at the break. There were seven lead changes and four ties in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Bucknell went on its big run from there.
With the score tied at 37-37, Bryson Johnson hit consecutive three-pointers and Mike Muscala converted a three-point play for a 9-0 surge to put the Bison up 46-37 with 10:18 left. Ben Brackney and Johnson each canned treys to give Bucknell a 52-41 edge with 8:43 left and complete the 15-4 stretch. Lehigh scored the next seven points, all by Holden Greiner, to get within 52-48 with 5:59 to go. Lehigh closed to within three points twice in the final minutes, but Cameron Ayers scored with 13 seconds left to push the Bucknell advantage to 60-55 as the Bison went on to the six-point win.
Johnson led the Bison with 19 points while making the trio of key three-pointers. Muscala just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, while the Bison got big minutes off the bench from Brian Fitzpatrick (six points, 10 rebounds) and Steven Kaspar (seven assists). Bucknell held a 42-35 edge on the boards, and limited Lehigh to 1-of-15 from three-point range.
Lehigh has lost consecutive Patriot League games for the first time since 2011 after winning 13 of its previous 14 League contests. The Mountain Hawks were done in by their sub-par shooting from three-point range as well as a 6-for-15 clip at the foul line. The Mountain Hawks were 24-of-60 from the field overall, as the rough shooting night mitigated committing only four turnovers in the game. Greiner and Mackey McKnight led Lehigh with 17 points apiece.
Patriot League action picks back up on Wednesday with Lafayette at Holy Cross, Colgate at Army and American at Navy. The Leopards are just one game behind Lehigh in the loss column for second place in the standings.