Bucknell Men Face Difficult Three-Day Challenge at Niagara

Steven Kaspar

Nov. 15, 2012

WHAT: Bucknell at Niagara Subregional of 2K Sports Classic
WHERE: Gallagher Center, Niagara University, N.Y.
WHEN: Nov. 16-18
LIVE WEBCAST: PurpleEagles.com (Friday only) video camera
RADIO: Eagle 107 (Fri./Sat.), The Valley 100.9 (Sun.) and SportsJuice.com
LIVE STATS: PurpleEagles.com
Complete Game Notes in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader


Friday, Nov. 16
Bucknell vs. Niagara, 7

Saturday, Nov. 17
Bucknell vs. New Mexico State, 5:30

Sunday, Nov. 18
Bucknell vs. West Alabama, 1:30
New Mexico State vs. Niagara, 4

all games at Gallagher Center

• Bucknell puts a 2-0 record on the line this weekend at the Niagara Subregional of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project. The Bison are already 1-0 in this event, as the season-opening 70-65 victory at Purdue was also part of the 2K Sports Classic.
• Bucknell followed up the Purdue victory with a hard-fought 61-56 home win over George Mason on Tuesday. Bucknell's first two opponents won a combined 46 games last season.
• Bucknell is receiving votes in both the Associated Press (1) and USA Today (2) top-25 polls this week, and the Bison are ranked 15th in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll. ESPN's Dick Vitale picked the Bison as his "Team of the Week" on Monday.
• The Bison were picked to finish second in the Patriot League behind Lehigh in a preseason poll of the league's head coaches and sports information directors. Senior center Mike Muscala and junior guard Cameron Ayers were both Preseason All-Patriot League selections.
• Bucknell returns four starters and 11 lettermen from last year's squad. The lone graduated starter is 6'5" guard Bryan Cohen, who won each of the last three Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year awards. Despite that loss, the experienced Bison start three seniors and two juniors, with another senior and junior among the top reserves.
• This will be a challenging weekend for the Bison, who are the only team in the tournament playing three games. The Bison open with traditional MAAC power Niagara on Friday, followed by New Mexico State, a 26-win NCAA Tournament team last year, on Saturday. Bucknell finishes the tournament against West Alabama on Sunday afternoon. New Mexico State and West Alabama will both be playing their first games of the weekend when they play Bucknell.

A Look at the Competition
NIAGARA: The Purple Eagles bring a 1-1 record into Friday's game against Bucknell. Niagara opened the campaign with a 102-83 loss at Oregon State, then bounced back with an 86-69 home victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) on Tuesday. Niagara has unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers in the early going. The Purple Eagles canned 16 treys against Oregon State followed by 10 more in the win over the Red Flash. Antoine Mason, who had 25 points on Tuesday, leads the team in scoring at 17.5 ppg. Juan'ya Green, last year's MAAC Rookie of the Year, is averaging 15.5 points and 7.0 assists. Freshman T.J. Cline, the son of basketball Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman, is scoring 13.0 ppg off the bench. Niagara went 14-19 overall and 8-10 in the MAAC a year ago. The Purple Eagles were picked fifth out of 10 teams in this year's MAAC preseason poll.
NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies went 26-10 and won the WAC Tournament a year ago. New Mexico State made its 19th NCAA Tournament appearance, falling to fourth-seeded Indiana 79-66 in the Round of 64. NM State opened the season with a 71-62 loss at Oregon State as part of the 2K Sports Classic. The Aggies had three players in double figures with Tyrone Watson and Daniel Mullings scoring 14 points each. Bandja Sy recorded 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds. NM State was set to host Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday before heading to Niagara.
WEST ALABAMA: Bucknell meets the Division II Tigers of the Gulf South Conference for the second year in a row. West Alabama went 8-20 a year ago, and the Tigers opened this season with an 80-49 loss at Alabama. UWA defeated Selma 84-67 at home on Wednesday. Last year's leading scorer, Steven Samuels (14.1 ppg), is one of three returning starters for the Tigers.

How to Get the Game
• There is no television for this weekend's tournament, however a live video webcast of the Bucknell-Niagara game will air on PurpleEagles.com (subscription fees apply).
• The Friday and Saturday games can be heard in the Susquehanna Valley on the radio on Eagle 107 (WEGH 107.3 FM), while Sunday's game against West Alabama will air on The Valley 100.9 FM. Doug Birdsong and Terry Conrad call the action. The pregame show begins 30 minutes before tip-off.
• The audio feed is available online free of charge via BucknellBison.com and SportsJuice.com.
• Live statistics will be available at PurpleEagles.com for all three contests.

Series Notes
BUCKNELL vs. NIAGARA: Niagara leads the all-time series 5-3 ... the teams last met on Nov. 30, 2005, with the Bison prevailing 66-63 at the Gallagher Center ... one year earlier the Purple Eagles came to Sojka Pavilion as the nation's highest-scoring team, but Bucknell won 76-74 on Charles Lee's shot just before the final buzzer ... Niagara's last series win was a 90-71 rout in Rochester early in the 2003-04 season.
BUCKNELL vs. NEW MEXICO STATE: The Bison and Aggies have never met in men's basketball ... in fact, Bucknell has never played any of the 10 current members of the WAC.
BUCKNELL vs. WEST ALABAMA: These two teams met for the first and only time in Sojka Pavilion last season as part of the Lewisburg Subregional of the TicketCity Legends Classic ... on the strength of a school-record 17 3-pointers, the Bison streaked to an 87-50 victory ... Bryson Johnson canned nine of those treys, which is still his career high ... Johnson scored 27 points, while Cameron Ayers added 20 and Ben Brackney 12 ... Bucknell also defeated Princeton and Morehead State for a 3-0 record that weekend.

Last Time Out
• Bucknell rode a hot start and some good free-throw shooting in the second half to a 61-56 victory over George Mason in the 2012-13 home opener on Tuesday at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison never trailed in the game, but a 13-point lead dwindled to three in the closing minutes. Bucknell came up with a big defensive stand to protect that 3-point lead, and then Mike Muscala iced the game with two free throws with 0:08 left.
• Muscala recorded his 26th career double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. He went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line to become Bucknell's career leader in made free throws (402). Of his 15 rebounds, 12 came in the second half.
Bryson Johnson knocked down four 3-pointers and tied Muscala for game-high honors with 16 points. Johnson went 4-for-7 from the arc and 4-for-5 from the foul line. • Joe Willman was Bucknell's third double-figure scorer with 10.
• Bucknell outrebounded the athletic Patriots 33-26 and held them to 40.0% shooting, but the Bison were hindered by 16 turnovers.
• Bucknell made only five second-half field goals in 20 tries but went 17-for-21 from the free-throw line in the second half. The Bison outscored George Mason 22-5 from the line on the night, as three Patriots fouled out.
• Freshman Ryan Frazier made his collegiate debut and gave the Bison a solid 15 minutes. He scored his first two points and dished out three assists.
• Another key bench player was senior Brian Fitzpatrick, who recorded five points and four rebounds in six minutes.

Who's Got Next?
• After playing three games in three days, the Bison will be off until Nov. 23 when they travel to Penn State. The Black Friday contest tips off at 4:30 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.
• Bucknell and Penn State will be meeting for the first time since 2006. The Nittany Lions have won 11 straight in the series dating back to Bucknell's 69-64 victory in Davis Gym in 1975-76.