Hoop Time notebook

(Last updated: 9:23 a.m.)

SOJKA MAGIC -- There is something about Senior Day and Sojka Pavilion. Wednesday night, the Bucknell women upset Holy Cross when senior Brooke Tomovich hit a game-winning free throw and made a game-saving block at the other end of the floor.

Saturday, the Bison men's lone senior, Chris Niesz, one-upped that by draining the game-winning three as time expired in Bucknell's 60-59 win over Colgate.

MORE SENIOR SUPERLATIVES -- In addition to Niesz's season-high 10-point performance for Bucknell, a number of other seniors had big days in their home finales Saturday.

At Lafayette, Sean Knitter, one of two seniors for the Leopards, scored 16 points, including two key threes, and hauled down 6 rebounds in the 81-76 win over Lehigh.

At American, Raimondas Petrauskas was 9-for-10 at the foul line, finishing with 17 points and 6 rebounds and Patrick Okpwae was 5-for-5 from the field, finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in AU's 84-77 win over Navy. Fellow senior Jason Thomas had 4 treys en route to a 17-point day. AU's other senior, Matej Cresnik added 8 points.

Holy Cross started all five of its seniors, but nobody had big numbers for the Crusaders other than sophomore Keith Simmons, who put 18 on the board against Army. All the seniors, except walk-on Dab Brault, did score in their last regular season home game, as Holy Cross really spread the ball around-- Brault was the only one of the 11 guys on the roster who did not score -- in the easy 66-49 win. Senior Nate Lufkin added 6 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.

JUST A REMINDER -- Before writing Lehigh's title chances off completely, which is admittedly tempting to do, keep in mind that last year's league title team entered the postseason off two straight losses, then won three in a row to claim the crown.

Of course there are differences, and Austen Rowland is not the only one. That team was 10-4 in league play in the regular season. This team is 7-7. And that team won 10 out of 12 before the two-game skid, with one of those losses in overtime on the road. This team has lost four in a row and was only .500 (3-3) in the six games before the skid began.

And, to do that, Lehigh will have to beat Holy Cross in Worcester, something the Hawks have only done three times in 17 tries and only once (1998) in 11 seasons.

AGONY OF THE FEET -- Looking for a single difference between the Bucknell team that was on a roll when conference play opened and the one that lost four conference games after drilling since-unbeaten Holy Cross in the conference opener? It might just be sophomore forward John Clark's aching feet.

Clark moved into the Bucknell starting lineup after the Dec. 1 loss at Penn and was there throughout the Bison's 11-game win streak that followed. But after Bucknell's back-to-back midseason losses at American and Navy, he was replaced in the starting five by freshman Darren Mastropaolo.

Clark has not started since, and his playing time has dwindled significantly. Against Colgate he saw just three minutes of action. The first time the two teams met, he played 19 minutes.

The reason for his diminished minutes is a chronic foot problem. According to Bison coach Pat Flannery, Clark has some sort of bone spurs that make it painful to run, excruciating to land after jumping. After gutting it out through the 13-game stretch he was in the starting lineup, the pain simply was more than Clark could play through effectively, although he has still seen action in every Bucknell game.

Flannery said the career-threatening problem cannot be fixed by rest alone. It will likely require surgery, but there is no guarantee Clark will be able to play after having the foot operated on.

Clark's woes have forced Flannery to use the freshman, Mastropaolo, as his starter at the four. Niesz, the 6-8 senior, is more skilled offensively than the freshman, but his skinny frame invites opposing teams to attack the basket.

Flannery said using Mastropaolo as the starter gives the Bison a wider body in the paint to set the tone at the start of the game, deterring opposing players from driving, which helps keep Chris McNaughton out of early foul trouble.

MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN – How have Lehigh’s expectations changed over the course of the season? Just look at the Mountain Hawks press notes. Early in the season they ballyhooed the team being picked to finish second in the league, with three first-place votes in the preseason poll.

Now the notes made a big deal out of the fact that if Lehigh won against Lafayette, it would secure a third straight winning season for the Hawks, who entered the game 13-13.

Of course with the loss to Lafayette, Lehigh will need to win the league tournament for that to happen.

MAYBE IT IS THE PINK SHIRTS – Although Lehigh is only about 10 miles away, the Mountain Hawks student contingent was limited to the shirtless L*E*H*I*G*H boys and about 20 of their drinking buddies.

What they lacked in numbers, though, they made up for in voice. Despite being outnumbered, they were far louder than the Lafayette students, putting the once feared Zoo Crew to shame, even though Lafayette gave its fans plenty to cheer in the first half.

NOT HIGH SCHOOL LADIES – Lehigh’s cheerleaders also were on hand, though why, I couldn’t tell you. They sat in the first two rows of the bleachers behind the Lehigh bench and didn’t set foot on the court during any of the first half timeouts.

The Lehigh pep band was also there, though aside from a few drum beats, were pretty much unheard, too.

The band and the cheerleaders did make one token appearance around the 15 minute mark of the second half. But save a few tumbling runs by one intrepid Lehigh rah-rah, which were promptly answered by a Lafayette cheerleader, the shirtless guys were the only ones sparking much Mountain Hawk spirit.

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