Bucknell 70, Lafayette 34

(Originally posted: Friday, 10:55 p.m., Links added: 7:42 a.m.)

LEWISBURG, Pa. – All Bison, all the time. That was pretty much the story of the nightcap in Sojka Pavilion, where Bucknell used its opening round game with Lafayette as a tuneup for the rest of the tournament, coasting to a 70-34 win over shell-shocked Lafayette.

It was total domination, start until finish, or at least until the starters took a seat to watch the far end of the Bison bench play out the final couple of minutes.

Bucknell started the game with an 11-0 run, holding Lafayette without a field goal the first 6:46 of the game. It was 18-5 at the 9:53 mark, when Jamaal Douglas scored Lafayette’s second field goal. And by the half, Bucknell had built a 34-16 margin.

Lafayette’s 34 points were the fewest ever scored in a Patriot League Tournament game, a mark that tells just how tenacious the Bison defense was. Lafayette made just five field goals in the first half (5-23, 21.7 percent) and only one more in the second (6-20, 30 percent), despite the fact that most of the second half was mop-up time, with Bucknell’s lead never below 16 the final 15:54 and never below 20 the last 13:14.

Maybe more telling is the fact that Bucknell scored 70 points, and won by 36, despite shooting below 40 percent (25-63, 39.7 percent) for the game.

Bucknell’s clampdown from the get go was by design. Though Lafayette won only nine games all season, three of those W’s had come in the last 4 games, including wins over American and Lehigh in games where the Leopards had lit up the scoreboard for 174 total points.

“We knew they had some confidence coming in,” said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery. “We thought if we let them get off shooting the ball that would hurt us.”

To say the Bison met that challenge would be an understatement. Lafayette was 0-for9 before it scored its first points.

“We got down right away and never recovered,” said Leopards coach Fran O’Hanlon. “They were better tonight. Right away they had us down 11-0.”

Sean Knitter, Lafayette’s leading scorer, who averaged 11.1 points per game this season, finally got the Leopards on the board with a short jumper at the 13:21 mark. It was Knitter’s only hoop of the night.

“They just play good post defense and they rebound real well,” Knitter said. “We didn’t get too many second shots.”

On this night, rebound well was an understatement. The Bison held a 30-13 edge on the glass in the first half and finished with a 46-28 advantage. Bucknell had 17 offensive rebounds to 6 for Lafayette.

“It seemed like every time they missed they got the rebound,” O’Hanlon said.

Leading the way was Charles Lee, who was within one rebound of a double-double at halftime and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds and four steals.

“We focused on (rebounding) all week,” Lee said. “We knew we have to do the little dirty work come tournament time.”

Joining Lee in double figures was Bucknell point guard Abe Badmus. Badmus was 5-for-8 from the floor, including two three-pointers for 13 points.

Nobody else reached double figures. Nobody had to. Every member of the Bison roster saw action, all but one scored, including Kevin Bettencourt, whose three treys gave him 9 points and gave him 207 treys for his career, breaking Mike Bright’s school record of 206.

The win gives Bucknell its first 20-win season since the Charlie Woolum era. The last Bison team to do it was the 1992-93 squad that went 23-6, losing to Holy Cross in the league final in what was the last tournament game played on the Bucknell campus prior to this season.

Flannery said the 20-win mark doesn’t mean a whole lot to him as a personal landmark. “But it does mean we’re in the semifinals of the league,” Flannery said.

Bucknell will play American in that semifinal matchup at 1 p.m. Sunday in Sojka.

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