March 21, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Patriot League champion Bucknell used a 19-2 run to go up six points on Butler midway through the second half, but the Bulldogs hit back and outscored the Bison 37-19 the rest of the way to record a 68-56 win in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship on Thursday at Rupp Arena.
The Bison trailed 29-18 before going on the 19-2 stretch that gave them a 37-31 lead with 9:55 to play. But Butler answered with the next eight points, and later went on a 10-0 stretch to pull away and go on to the 68-56 win.
The Bison finish the season at 28-6, setting a Patriot League and school record for overall victories. They went 12-2 in the Patriot League before winning the League Tournament with a 64-56 victory over Lafayette in the championship game on March 13.
"You know, these kind of days are always really, really hard when you're at the end of a season, and it's especially hard today because I don't get to coach these guys anymore," said Bucknell Head Coach Dave Paulsen.
Neither team could get on track on offense in the first half, with Butler holding a small lead for most of the period and closing on a 6-2 run for a 21-14 edge at the break. The Bulldogs opened the second half with an 8-4 start to go up double digits at 29-18, but Bucknell fought back from there.
A three-point play by Mike Muscala, jumper by Joe Willman and three-pointer by Cameron Ayers brought the Bison within 29-26 and forced a Butler timeout. Butler hit a bucket to stop the surge briefly, but Bucknell answered with Muscala scoring and Willman hitting consecutive jumpers for a 32-31 lead with 11:31 to go. Ayers buried a three for a four-point lead to force another timeout, and Willman capped the stretch with a jumper for a 37-31 lead with 10:17 to go.
Butler, the national runner-up in 2010 and 2011, fought right back with three-pointers by Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clark to cap an 8-0 run and re-gain the lead at 39-37 with 8:44 to go. Bucknell went back ahead on a three-point play by Ryan Frazier with 8:02 left, but Butler grabbed a 41-40 advantage on a bucket by Smith 12 seconds later and led the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs stretched the lead out with a 10-0 run to go up 53-42 with 2:38 to play in the game. Bryson Johnson answered with a three-pointer for the Bison, but Clarke delivered a dagger three with the shot clock winding down on the next possesssion to put the Bulldogs up 56-45 with 1:41 to play. Three-pointers by Johnson and Ayers helped the Bison get as close as 64-56 with 30 seconds left, but Butler iced the game with a 12-for-14 effort at the foul line in the final two minutes.
"When we made the 19-2 run, we knew it was not going to be easy," Paulsen said. "We made a great run, but we knew they were going to come back. They were able to make some counters. They got some offensive rebounds and, on the one possession they ran the shot clock down to about two seconds and Clarke came off a stagger and hit a three as the clock basically wound down."
He added, "I just think they played in so many big games that they're not the type of team that's going to get rattled."
Willman led the Bison with a career-high 20 points, making 10-of-16 shots while also pulling down six rebounds and recording three blocks. Muscala was just short of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds, but finished 4-of-17 from the field. Ayers and Johnson also scored nine points apiece.
Muscala sets a Patriot League single-season record with 378 rebounds, and his 1,093 boards are second in League history behind only the 1,103 of Colgate's Adonal Foyle (1994-97). Muscala also finishes his career with 2,036 points, good for fourth place in League annals. Johnson closes his career with 1,384 points and is the Patriot League all-time leader with 324 three-pointers. Willman finishes with 1,162 points and 645 boards as the trio accounted for more than 4,500 points in their careers.
Bucknell's seniors also finish with a three-year school and Patriot League record of 78 wins, and the class of 2013, which also includes Colin Klebon, records the most wins in program history with 92.
"This is the most fun I've ever had with a team in my life," Muscala said. "So, it hasn't really sunk in yet, to be honest. But, I love all the guys on the team and I thought this year was a lot of fun. Obviously it didn't end the way we all wanted it to, but I will still enjoy the rest of the time I have with these guys until I graduate."
Willman said, "I've spent a lot of time with the four seniors, the rest of the team and the coaching staff and put so much work in. We've been together for so long. It just sort of hits you that it's your last game, the last time putting on a Bucknell uniform."
The Bison finished at 23-of-62 from the field, going 16-of-35 in the second half after a 7-of-27 first-half output. Bucknell made 5-of-16 three-pointers in the game and 5-of-8 free throws. The Bison had 13 assists and nine turnovers in the game, but only forced five turnovers by the Bulldogs.
Butler was 20-of-55 from the field and just 3-of-17 from three-point range, but stepped up from the line with a 25-of-28 clip. The Bulldogs also held a 41-37 edge on the boards. Clarke led the way with 17 points, while Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Smith each scored 14 and Alex Barlow added 10. Smith also finished with 16 rebounds to record a double-double.
The Bulldogs advance to face the winner of the Davidson/Marquette contest in the third round on Saturday.
Patriot League teams are now 3-22 in the NCAA Tournament, and 3-18 in the Round of 64. Lehigh recorded a victory over Duke last year, while the Bison won against Kansas (2005) and Arkansas (2006) in previous appearances. Bucknell falls to 2-6 in the NCAA Tournament in school history, and 2-4 in the Round of 64.