Ramblin' Man

Different headline, same story.

I changed it when I edited the piece. It is obviously influenced by the Allman Brothers CD the wife gave me for Christmas, which was the soundtrack for the drive to and from Lewisburg.

Here's what this piece is: I kept running notes through the game on the old laptop ... these are those. I originally posted them completely unedited shortly after the game. They have now been cleaned up slightly. Things like spellcheck and a little formatting; no major changes.

The idea was to post a "recorded live" sort of thing. If you like it enjoy; If it sucks, that is OK too. Either way, I doubt I will do it again. It was a pain in the ass and made it hard to watch the game. This concept is best left to those who can touch type, methinks.

Anyhow, here's how it happened:

Game time ... 2 p.m. ... a surprisingly decent crowd still coming in

Surprise in the starting lineup, Griffin starting at point instead of Badmus. It was not in the pregame notes, but Badmus was sat down by Pat Flannery for what is being called a “minor violation of a team rule.” He will play, but will not start.

Does HC coaching staff suspects he is hurt. Remember he was out earlier in the season with a hip problem.

First BU possession, Torey Thomas called for a handcheck guarding Bettencourt.

After HC turnover at other end, Lufkin picks up for his first foul 1:08 into this one trying to stop Charles Lee on the break. HC does not want Lufkin in foul trouble.

Bucknell turns it over for fourth time on fifth possession. Remember last year in the tournament, Bucknell’s 28 turnovers kept the Bison from blowing it open.

Off HC’s first made shot, they press on D. Ralph has written about his dislike of full court pressure, but it worked against Bucknell in that tournament game, so why not.

At first media timeout, Bucknell leads 4-2, thanks to 4-for-4 shooting at the line, They also have 5 turnovers and have taken just one shot from the field. Holy Cross is 1-for-3 from the field with 4 turnovers.

A big crowd on hand, biggest I have seen in Sojka. Bucknell would like to play good game to bring the freebie folks back.

Badmus checks in at the first TV timeout.

Donald Brown in for the Bison, picks up two very quick fouls.

BU’s first field goal comes on nice post move by Darren Mastropaolo at the 13:57 mark, giving Bison a 6-4 lead.

13 minute mark, two teams combine 13 turnovers (HC-7), just 10 points.

12:03 Lee for three, bring first obligatory T-shirt toss.

11:31, Lee running the break after nifty outlet pass from McNaughton, lays in in and draws Lufkin’s second personal. Willard has to sit Lufkin. 30 seconds later, Thomas gets his second, trying to drive through three BU defenders, bringing freshman Pat Doherty off the bench.

At the other end, Bettencourt drains a three. BU now on 9-0 run, two treys sandwiched around old fashioned three-point play by Lee. BU 15-6.

Doherty’s first foul, at 7:38, puts BU in the bonus. Willard is going with both freshman, Clifford and Doherty on the floor. Bucknell is not pulling away but they are getting guys some rest. This Bucknell team has the depth to do that, which helps wear people down in the second half and also is probably a factor in why they are winning tight games at the end.

Badmus hits front end, misses the second, BU 21-13, then schools Doherty, picking the freshman’s pocket near midcourt and taking it in for a layup and a 10-point lead.

So far, Clifford appears better than advertised. He is holding his own against McNaughton on the defensive end. The kid is 6-10, and he also checks in at a defensive-end-like 265 pounds. Despite Lufkin on the bench for almost eight minutes so far, at the TV timeout with 3:42 to go first half, McNaughton (0-2) still has not scored. BU up, 24-16.

37.7 to go, Hamilton on a breakaway, Badmus comes from behind, blocks the layup, is called for the most incredibly bogus flagrant foul ever called. Who is this ref? It is a horrible call. Horrible. Hamilton makes both, then before HC can inbound the ball, John Hurley gets hit with a technical after shoving McNaughton with his elbow while jockeying for position before officials even handed the ball to HC to inbound.

HC gets ball back ... plays for one shot, down by 12, why? They can’t get a shot off ... Shot clock violation gives BU the ball with 2.7 seconds to go in the half.

McNaughton’s heave from just inside the halfcourt like draws glass and nothing else.

At the half, Bucknell up 30-18.

In the media room at the half, the discussion over chicken wings and pizza revolves around that intentional foul call. The consensus: it was about the worst intentional foul call anyone has seen. Some even argue it was the worst call they have ever seen, period.

The ref who made the call is a guy named David Walker. There are some guys here who see a lot of games: John Feinstein, Dave Jones of The Patriot-News, Tom Housenick of the Sunbury paper … none of us have ever seen this guy before. The guess is he is a rookie.

Second half:

HC is going inside, First two buckets come from Lufkin and Hurley

In between, a reverse dunk by McNaughton, his first bucket of the game, at the 18:16 mark.

15:30 to go, Badmus going in for a layup is hammered. No intentional call this time by Walker, though the contact was certainly harder than on the one he called on Badmus. It is, though, the right call.

At the first TV timeout, HC has crawled within 8, 32-24. Lufkin has 4 of the 6 points for the Crusaders.

14:48, Lufkin picks up his third foul, just after a Hamilton trey cuts BU lead to 33-27. Darren Mastropaolo makes both to push it back to 8. An HC turnover and a Bettencourt three later, the lead is back in double digits.

Walker calls a travel on Chris Niesz on what looks like a decent jump stop.

12:36 Lufkin looks like he got all ball blocking Lee’s shot. Official disagrees and Lufkin sits with four fouls.

At the other end Thomas looks like he walked, Walker says no, Niesz fouled him. Fans are all over Walker now.

11:48, media timeout: HC within six again, 38-32.

Kevin Hyland gets a little runner to go over McNaughton, 38-34.

A steal off the press at midcourt leads to a Hamilton trey, 38-37 and Flannery quick calls a timeout with 11:12 to play.

11:02McNaughton hammered from behind going to the hole. Walker calls foul, but no intentional. Flannery can be heard pleading “They foul us every time we shoot a layup.”

9:23 Walker calls a foul on Badmus as Thomas appears to walk. Boos cascade through Sojka.

8:38 McNaughton hits 1 of 2, Bucknell lead back to 6, 43-37, even though they have no field goals in recent memory.

Lufkin back in unnoticed around the 8 min mark.

6:18, Lee drives, is hammered, but LeBranch calls him for a charge. Says one reporter of the refs: "This is northern tier league stuff."

The Northern Tier, for those not familiar with Pa., is the wooded areas at the top of the state of Pa where deer outnumber humans.

Less anyone think we’re bashing Northern Tier hoops, the area did produce Maryland and NBA player turned politician Tom McMillan and a kid named Phil Hickey who played for Notre Dame a few years ago. They play some decent ball for small, country schools, but they are seldom seen deep in the state playoffs.

Regardless, it was not meant as a compliment.

4:39 Lufkin tries to draw a charge on Donald Brown and fouls out. Brown has just made three big plays in a row: First and athletic follow on a blocked Charles Lee shot for a 46-37 lead, BU’s first field goal in a long time. At the other end he blocks a layup, then comes down and draws Lufkin's fifth and hits both free throws to push BU lead back to double digits, 48-37.

The New York Times has a stringer here to do a story. They won’t drive to uptown Manhattan for a Columbia game, but they found Lewisburg somehow.

3:56, with both in the bonus, this is looking like a free throw shooting contest down the stretch.

The announced crowd of 3,897 is the largest in Bucknell history. Hard to tell if it is the free admission or the win over Pittsburgh that brought them out. Having grown up nearby, I am betting on the free admission.

Despite no tickets, that is probably a pretty accurate number. Bucknell had folks with clickers at the entrances as folks came in.

2:05, Does not look like HC has a miracle comeback in them. Bucknell is too good at the line and HC doesn't have the offensive firepower.

1:48 Clifford’s first appearance of the second half. The kid played well in the first half and it is surprising he got no more minutes than this in the second half.

1:10, Badmus layup is blocked below the rim, Walker calls goaltending from midcourt as he tries to catch up with the play. May be the cherry on Walker’s dreadful officiating sundae.

Holy Cross shooting below 30 percent. Noting that here in case a couple garbage buckets push them above.

:15 Bettencourt stands at midcourt and dribbles out the clock.

Final: Bucknell 59-43

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Bucknell 59, Holy Cross 43 (Telegram-Gazette version)

Here's my game story for the Worcester Telegram-Gazette

Special to the Telegram-Gazette

LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Holy Cross came into its Patriot League opener at Bucknell with a simple three-part game plan.

The Crusaders went 0-for-3 on that checklist and the result was a 59-43 loss (box score) at the hands of the preseason league-favorite Bison and an 0-1 start in conference play.

“Our game plan was to go inside and go right at them and I think we threw the ball inside four times in the first half,” said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard. “We had two things defensively we had to do: get back in transition and not put them at the free throw line. In the first half, they had 18 points in transition and 10 from the free throw line.”

The result was a 30-18 halftime deficit that the Crusaders (8-5, 0-1) were unable to overcome.

“Out of 30 points they had 28 from the two things we said we weren’t going to let them do,” said Willard. “We laid an egg. They made an omelet.”

Actually, it would have been hard to make an omelet out of that egg. You probably would have needed to scrape the broken egg off the floor first. If it didn’t make a mess clanging off the rim – Holy Cross was 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) from the field in the first half – it certainly would have shattered on the floor from one of the Crusaders 11 first half turnovers (19 total).

The second half was not much prettier. The Crusaders did manage to cut the Bucknell lead to one about midway through the second half. But Bucknell responded with a 10-0 walk (all but two of the points came at the free throw line, so you could hardly call it a run) and the Crusaders never got closer the 9 the rest of the way.

By the time the game was over, Bucknell had made that walk to the free throw line 37 times, making 26. Bucknell was hardly an offensive juggernaut. Holy Cross held them to 14 field goals the whole afternoon (14-of-34, 41.2 percent). But between a defensive effort that held the Crusaders to 14-of-50 (28 percent) shooting night, their worst offensive showing of the season, and Bucknell’s free throw shooting, the HC defensive effort hardly mattered.

“Bucknell did a great job shooting free throws,” Willard said. “They beat us by 16 points at the free throw line.”

It was hardly coincidental the Bison won the game by the same margin.

“You can’t work hard on defense and then wind up letting them shoot free throws, and that is what we did,” said Willard. “They killed us at the free throw line.”

You would have to go back to the 56-40 loss at Louisville on Dec. 7, 2003, to find a poorer offensive showing by the Crusaders. Only in a 46-42 loss to Colgate in 2002 has Holy Cross scored fewer points in a league game since Willard became the Crusaders coach.

“We didn’t execute,” said HC’s junior guard Kevin Hamilton, the Crusaders lone bright spot offensively. Hamilton finished with 17 points. No other Crusader had more than 7.

“We anticipated the defenses they played. We were prepared for that,’ Hamilton said. “We just didn’t execute.”

A big part of the Crusaders offensive problems could be traced to Nate Lufkin’s foul trouble. Lufkin, Holy Cross’ only legitimate weapon in the paint, played only 16 minutes before fouling out. With Lufkin on the floor, Bucknell’s guards had to double down to help every time the Crusaders threw him the ball. One on one against Bucknell’s Chris McNaughton, Lufkin was almost unstoppable, missing only one shot.

The problem was, between his foul problems and Bucknell’s double teams, he only took three shots all afternoon. Lufkin played just five minutes in the first half, taking a seat after picking up two quick fouls.

Lufkin picked up his fourth personal on a questionable call while trying to block a shot with 12:35 to play. At that point, Holy Cross was down 6 and in the midst of the 10-0 run that cut Bucknell’s lead to 38-37 with 11:14 to go.

“It affects us a lot (when Lufkin sits). You saw what he did when he did get the ball in the second half,” said Willard. “He hit some shots. Even when he didn’t, he made some good things happen. He was kicking the ball out and we had some open shots. We didn’t make them, but we had some open shots.”

Kevin Bettencourt led Bucknell with 17 points, including three treys. Charles Lee added 12, five from the free throw line.

The win was Bucknell’s seventh in a row. Holy Cross lost for just the second time in six games.

The Crusaders will look to rebound Wednesday when they visit Army.

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Here's some Patriot League scoreboards that will keep you up to date during this afternoon's games:

ESPN | CBS Sportsline | PennLive.com

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Morning shootaround

Holy Cross at Bucknell, 2 p.m. -- You'll find the full preview, with links, below. Two links we didn't include were for the audio feeds. Since the game is "nationally televised", not to mention Bucknell offering FREE ADMISSION, we figured nobody would listen to internet radio, so why bother.

Then we started looking through our local listings to set the VCR, and could not find it anywhere on the Comcast lineup in the Harrisburg area, even though College Sports TV's Web site says:
CSTV is available on Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Adelphia and Insight cable systems, among others, and is also available on DirecTV (channel 610).
If your cable system doesn't carry CSTV, you can listen live on your choice of the Bison Sports Network or Holy Cross flagship station WTAG. If you pick Doug Birdsong's Bucknell call you get the added bonus of hearing an interview with me at the half.

Also, a word on our game plan for this afternoon: Assuming no problems with our antique laptop, which is around 97-years-old in computer years (which are sort of like dog years), we will have the initial game story posted around 5:30 p.m. or so.

We will add additional commentary later, and then pull together a full league report Sunday morning.

The rest of today's games:

Navy at Lafayette, 1 p.m. (Gametracker | Navy Game Notes| Lafayette Game Notes)

Lehigh at American, 1 p.m. ( AU Game Notes (pdf) | Lehigh Game Notes)

Army at Colgate, 2 p.m. (Gametracker | Army Game Notes | Colgate Game Notes)


CURIOUS MOVE: The common itinerary for a Division I team on the road is to arrive the day before the game in time to have a walk-through in the other team's gym.

Holy Cross, though, took a different approach for today's game at Bucknell. The Crusaders practiced yesterday morning in Worcester, then bused to Lewisburg later in the day.

This is particularly curious because, with school still on winter break, there were no missed classes to be worried about.

We're not about to second guess Ralph Willard; He's been around long enough to know what he is doing. But we do wonder what the thought process was behind skipping a Friday shootaround in Sojka. We will try to remember to ask him about that this afternoon.

NO GUARANTEES: Author, commentator, columnist, swimmer and this afternoon's TV color guy, John Feinstein has a nice piece in today's Washington Post about how Bucknell forgot its end of the bargain in that guarantee game at Pittsburgh.

An interesting Pat Flannery quote near the end shows Flannery isn't about to buy into all the sudden hype. Despite beating Pittsburgh, Bucknell knows if they want to dance in March, this is a much bigger game. Said Flannery:
"I'm pretty sure I won't have any problem getting them ready for Holy Cross. For us, they're still the benchmark."
TROUBLE IN ANNAPOLIS: A story posted yesterday afternoon in the Annapolis Capital previews the Mids game at Lafayette and also hints of off court problems with the Navy program:
The Midshipmen played that (air force) without forward Matt Fannin and guard Kelvin Boatner, whom Lange suspended for violation of team rules.

"We have certain ways we are going to carry ourselves and if I have to suspend people to make sure that standard is upheld, that's what I'll do," Lange said.

Fannin and Boatner will both be back tomorrow, but Lange is going to stick with the starting lineup he's been using. That means freshmen Ben Biles, Greg Sprink and Corey Johnson will start for the fourth straight game.

Johnson has taken over at point guard for senior Taj Mathews, who has been bothered by injuries to both wrists. Biles, who at 6-foot-9 is the second-tallest player on Navy's roster, has been providing decent rebounding and defense at center. Sprink moved into the starting lineup at wing forward after producing a double-double against Mount St. Mary's.

Navy remains without sophomore forward Carlton Baldwin, the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder. Baldwin, who has played in just three games, is serving an academy-related suspension and may not return this season.

"My main interest at this point is keeping Carlton at the academy," (Billy) Lange said. "It's a shame because I think our record is reversed if we have this kid all season. He makes plays."
ONE GAME NOT ENOUGH?: Fans attending the Bucknell-Holy Cross game whose appetite for hoops is not sated by that game can stick around after for a high school game between Shamokin and Central Columbia. It's all part of what Bucknell is billing as Community Day.

Did we mention FREE ADMISSION.

GLORY DAYS: Kyle, over at Mid-Majority.com, was thinking of making the Holy Cross Bucknell games one of his 100 games. Instead, he is continuing his America East tour, saving a visit to the No. 200 Sports Town in America for later. In his Friday installment he chronicled Boston University's (lopsided might be an understatement) 73-22 win over Hartford by listing "22 Teams That Can Beat The Hartford Hawks."

What does this have to do with the Patriot League, you ask. Nothing, but one of the 22 teams he mentions is me and a handful of other guys from the hoops blogosphere.

Had he mentioned it in a chat room, my response would be *ROTFLMAO* (translation: rolling on the floor laughing my ass off). This tells me one of X things: Either Kyle has no idea how out of shape I am and how weak my jumper was even in what I laughingly would call my basketball prime, or those other guys got serious game.

Next week Kyle promises to be in Lewisburg to see the Army-Bucknell game. Maybe the dude has a thing for mismatches.

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From every angle, this one looks close

In the wake of all the hype about Bucknell’s upset win over Pittsburgh, it would be easy to view the Bison as heavy favorites in Saturday’s conference opener against Holy Cross.
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It would be easy; but it would also be wrong.

Bucknell is probably the favorite in this one. But it’s because the game is in Lewisburg, not because the Bison beat Pittsburgh. The homecourt advantage is really the only big edge to be found when you start breaking down the numbers and looking close at how these two match up. And even that is dubious at best.

Start with the records: Bucknell is 9-4, Holy Cross 8-4. The RPI types rank HC’s schedule as tougher—No. 75 vs. No. 131. Frankly, we don’t see that much difference. The biggest difference we see is that Bucknell doesn’t play Villanova until February.

Both played, and lost, to Princeton. Bucknell beat Pitt; Holy Cross lost in OT to Boston College. Bucknell lost to Iowa State; HC to Minnesota.

As a group, it would be hard to argue that Boston U., Marist, Fordham, Brown, Rhode Island, Northeastern, Vermont and Dartmouth is much tougher than Rider, Stephen F. Austin, St. Francis, Penn, Northern Colorado, Yale, Robert Morris, Cornell, St. Joe’s and Niagara.

In many ways, this is a continuation of last season’s series, which Bucknell won 2-1 by taking the rubber match in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament. The starting lineups and rotations have not changed a whole lot since then.

Each team held serve at home in the regular season. Bucknell won the tourney game 65-60 in a game that Holy Cross led with 1:18 to play. The combined score of those three games: Bucknell 203, Holy Cross 199. That is pretty even.

Scrutinizing the box scores from those in search of something that might give us a clue to a key to Saturday’s game didn't turn up much. The only discernable pattern was that there was no pattern

For certain, the Chris McNaughton-Nate Lufkin matchup had to be the key, we thought. Especially after the first box we looked at was from the tournament game, where Lufkin fouled out while McNaughton had a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double.

We were certain we were on to something when we looked back to the second meeting, won by HC in Worcester. In that one, Lufkin won the matchup, scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 boards while McNaughton, limited to 20 minutes by foul troubles, had 6 points and 9 rebounds. For sure there was a pattern here.

Then we looked at the first game, a Bucknell win in Lewisburg. McNaughton fouled out in that one, finishing with 12 points and 3 rebounds. Lufkin had 12 points and 4 boards. Lufkin played 23 minutes, finished with four fouls; McNaughton 25 minutes before being disqualified. No advantage there.

Kevin Bettencourt went off for 29 for Bucknell in that first game. Surely we’d find a clue here.

Sorry, no. Bettencourt scored 21 in Worcester and BU lost, only 8 down in the horse barn and the Bison won.

Abe Badmus was such a key to Bucknell’s successes in conference play last season. Maybe the Bison point guard’s numbers would tell us something.

They did. They told us Bucknell can beat Holy Cross even when Badmus doesn’t have a big night. In the two Bucknell wins, Badmus had a total of 2 assists (both in the tournament) and 9 turnovers.

Rebounding? Nope. Holy Cross held the edge, 30-25, in Lewisburg; both teams had 37 in Worcester. Bench Production? Holy Cross’ reserves scored 71 points in the three games, Bucknell’s combined for 43, but Bucknell won two out of three.

Bucknell had 28 turnovers in the tournament game and still won, it can’t be that.

Three-point shooting was not a big factor either. Matter of fact, in two of the trhee games, the team that made the most treys lost.

So what was the difference in those three games?

Like we told you before: 4 points.

The difference Saturday might be even less.

If last year’s games are not enough to convince you this is a toss-up, take a look at some of this year’s stats. Holy Cross is averaging 64 points per game while allowing 57.9. Bucknell is scoring 63.4 and allowing 59.

Bucknell holds a 45.7 to 43.6 edge in field goal percentage; Holy Cross has a 34.5 to 32.5 advantage in rebounding. Both teams have three guys averaging in double figures.

The Bison lead the all-time series, but only by a 19-17 margin. Despite all the years the two met in Davis Gym, where Bucknell was almost invincible many seasons, the Bison’s edge at home is only 8-7 and in Sojka Pavilion the two have split a pair of games. So much for home court advantage.

What about the coaches? In Patriot League play, Holy Cross’ Ralph Willard has a .636 winning percentage, Bucknell’s Pat Flannery .633

If you were the betting type, and you could actually find a spread on Patriot League games, you’d probably be smart to take the points. A better bet, though, might be on seeing these two settle things, for this season anyhow, on a Friday afternoon in the second week of March.

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Around the Patriot League

Holy Cross at Bucknell is not the only game on Saturday's schedule.

Here's an early look at the rest of the slate:

Navy at Lafayette, 1 p.m. (Gametracker)

Lehigh at American, 1 p.m.

Army at Colgate, 2 p.m. (Gametracker)

Any preview links we can find Sat. morning will be added the.

Other PL news and commentary of note:

  • Tom Housenick of the Daily Item in Sunbury makes some interesting points about Lafayette's scholarship woes inhis weekly college hoops column.

    Tom points out:
    In fact, according to The Chronicle for Higher Education, Bucknell, Holy Cross and Lehigh all have higher graduation rates among basketball players than Lafayette, which has slipped the last three seasons.
    In fairness, we must point out those graduation rate studies did not inlcude scholarship players since the most recent figures are based on kids who entered before the league started allowing them. But Stanford and Duke have not lost their academic reps with athletic scholarships and neither would Lafayette.

    Housenick says:
    Arthur Rothkopf, Lafayette’s president, has stood firm regarding his opposition to athletic scholarships and enough of the school’s board of trustees have backed him.

    Things could change in June when Rothkopf retires, but until then O’Hanlon, a great bench coach and a good guy, and Smith, who came to Easton’s College Hill with an outstanding record at the Division III level, will continue to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.
    Frannie does OK for a one-handed man. But the Leopards deserve a fairer fight.

    Also in the column, which focuses on changes in the league, Housenick considers some implications of the new scheduling format of the regular season and the four-headed conference tournament set-up and concludes it will not help the women, at least not media coverage-wise.

  • Kevin Bettencourt's hometown paper in Salem, Mass saysBettencourt, Bucknell living out a hoop dream

  • Lee Lewis, a Bucknell grad and executive sports editor of the Waterbury Republican-American shows how long it has been since he has been back in Central Pa. in his column about his alma mater and its win over Pitt:
    A shocking outcome that was certainly hailed across central Pennsylvania, up and down the mighty Susquehanna, from the Friendly Tavern to the Bull Run Inn.
    The Bull Run Inn is still a favorite Lewisburg watering hole, but the Friendly Tavern, known as much for the big yellow smiley face painted on the front of the building as it was as a convenient stop to pick up a six pack on the way to Harrisburg on Routes 11&15 (back in the days when we didn't know any better), is no more. These days it is TJ's Lasting Impressions, a private club for swingers (no, not golfers or baseball players ... that other kind of swingers).

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  • HC tunes up with win over Dartmouth

    Make no mistake about it. This was exactly what Ralph Willard hoped it would be: a tune-up for Saturday's conference opener at Bucknell.

    Dartmouth, picked to finish last in the Ivy League, put up a little opposition. Down by 10 at the half, the Big Green managed to cut the deficit to 3 twice in the second half. But the team picked to finish last in the Ivy League was ultimately no match for the team expected to contend for the Patriot League.

    From the Worcester Telegram:
    Holy Cross found its double-digit lead sliced to 43-40 as the Big Green came out strong to start the second half. But the visitors turned the ball over seven times in the next 10 minutes while being held to two field goals as the Crusaders extended their advantage to 65-46.
    The defensive effort gave HC enough of a cushion to allow Willard to play all 12 guys on the roster, saving the starters legs for Saturday. Only Kevin Hamilton-- who was all over the box score with a game high 16 points, 8 rebounds (also game high), 4 assists, 4 steals and a block-- played more than 30 minutes.

    “I think in order for this team to be successful, I need to be more than a one-dimensional player,” Hamilton told the Telegram. “I can’t just be a shooter."

    After a pair of uncharacteristic shootout-type wins in late December, where HC binged on offense like New Year's dieters on Girl Scout cookies, the Crusaders are back to their lunch pail defensive style, much to Willard's delight.

    You can almost see him cracking a slight smile when he told Mark Cofman of the Boston Herald:
    I thought we defended very well. At one point in the second half, we had 13 straight (defensive) stops.
    You might recall, the last time HC played an Ivy (Dec. 21 at Brown), they scored 84 points but gave up 71, allowing Brown to shoot 49 percent from the field, much to Willard's chagrin.

    Four games later, it is obvious they are back to drinking the Kool Aid. In those four games, three of which were wins, nobody has shot better than 43 percent against Holy Cross. The only loss in that stretch, a 64-59 setback at the hands of a pretty good Vermont club, came at the free throw line, not the defensive end, where the Crusaders held UVM to 41 percent shooting.

    In other words, they appear to be playing the type of basketball Willard would like to see heading into conference play. Especially heading into a game that has rare early season significance. With Bucknell and Holy Cross each expected to contend for the Patriot title, the winner Saturday gets an mental edge that might be worth even more than the one game it counts for in the standings.

    We'll preview that game in more depth tomorrow.

    Meanwhile, back to the Herald story:
    "We do our best work when we're digging in defensively,'' said (Nate) Lufkin, a 6-foot-11 senior center. "Dartmouth made it close for a while, but we were finally able to put them away because we turned up our defense a notch. That's our trademark."
    It has been Bucknell's trademark, too.

    Let the games begin.

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    The Eagles have landed

    The conditions for the upset were there, as we said yesterday might be the case. Coming off a near miss against Illinois and a big win over Gonzaga, with their Big 12 opener against Iowa State ahead, American caught Missouri in valley mode last night. Even the Tiger's fans were disinterested, with only about 6,000 using their tickets for the game in the sold-out, 15,000 seat Mizzou Arena.

    The Eagles, though, were unable to capitalize, losing to Mizzou, 64-51. It was AU's third loss in four games, a factoid that might be a little misleading since Missouri and Maryland were two of those games.

    Graham Watson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch saw it clearly:
    The intensity the Tigers had shown in their past two games, both against ranked teams, seemed to be lacking against their now 6-5 opponent.
    Missouri forward Linas Kleiza confirmed it, telling Watson:
    "I think we played to the level of American and took this team for granted. It was all on us today. We didn't have a good crowd, it was raining and there were all kinds of distractions going on. It was one of those games that we can't have any more of."
    So what went wrong?

    It would be tempting to look at the play analysis at the end of the box score and to focus immediately on the Tigers 26-6 edge in bench points. Tempting because we have been saying for a while now that American's lack of depth is its Achilles heel.

    But that would be an oversimplification. For starters, AU just happened to play Mizzou on the night the Tigers started hitting three-pointers. Back to the Post-Dispatch story:
    . . . the Tigers 3-point shooting, which has been spotty most of this season, boosted them out of their scoring rut and propelled them to a 33-21 halftime lead . . . the Tigers were 10 of 22 from the 3-point line, which was the Tigers' second best 3-point percentage this season.
    Meanwhile, AU, which not so long ago was ranked No. 3 in the nation from outside the arc, couldn't have hit one of the 9,000 empty seats in Mizzou Arena from the upper deck if you painted a curving white line along the railing. The Eagles fired up 13 treys. They connected on 3. Faithful readers who majored in math will tell you that is 23.1 percent. Those who prefer non-numeric analysis will simply say "it sucked."

    This was the same American team that came in shooting over 40 percent from the arc. The same team that four games ago was shooting over 45 percent out there. It is also the same team that shot 25 percent outside the arc in losing to a LaSalle team (now 3-7) that had one win when AU played it last week.

    This suggests a few things. First, there is the distinct possibility that AU's guards are already leg-weary. Andre Ingram is playing a ton of minutes. Jason Thomas is not far behind Ingram. Remember, the first sign of tired legs is missed jump shots.

    Second, it appears that Jason Thomas has fallen back to Earth after his incredible three-game run against Vermont, Towson and Ohio U. In those three games, Thomas shot 80 percent (12-of-15) from three-point range and averaged 30 points per game. In four games since, Thomas is 5-for-21 from the arc (24 percent) and averaging 9 ppg.

    Here's what that suggests to me: Earlier in the season, teams focused on stopping Ingram, ignoring Thomas to their peril. Now they are paying more attention to him, and it shows in his lower numbers.

    A confession here: If memory serves, we saw AU four times last season, five if you count watching the final on the tube. When Thomas went off in that three-game stretch we just talked about, we had to scurry for a media guide to figure out who the hell he was. In other words, he did not make an impression on us last year. We simply don't remember him.

    But these recent stats suggest a driveway shooter who is deadly as long as there is not a hand in his face.

    Bottom line, heading into conference play, the formula to beat American is starting to look obvious: pressure the shooters outside, make the Eagles beat you in the paint.

    There are some teams in the league AU can beat inside. There are others that don't have the guards to stop Ingram or Thomas. But at least two, Bucknell and Holy Cross, would appear to match up awfully well against the Eagles. Anybody betting against those two being at home the first weekend in March is a bookies dream come true.

    Back to the Missouri game for a moment. If you look at the play-by-play, you'll notice that despite the poor shooting, and despite Mizzou's hot night at the top of the curve, AU was in this game until the last two minutes of the first half. It was 22-21 Missouri with 2:11 to go. American, though, didn't score the rest of the half, while the Tigers went on an 11-0 run.

    It wasn't poor shooting that doomed AU in that fateful stretch. It was poor ballhandling. Sure Sekou Lewis missing a dunk (down 6, lay it in!) didn't help. But the bigger problem was three turnovers in two minutes.

    Missouri took a 33-21 lead to the locker room at intermission and American never got closer than 6 the rest of the night.

    Read more!

    . . . the rest of a dreary night for the Patriot League

    Corky Blake's lead from the Express-Times story on Lehigh's 55-45 loss to Cornell:
    Through 13 games the question still lingers: Is Lehigh ready to defend its Patriot League basketball championship?
    Corky, buddy, pal ... are you serious?

    Corky knows the game too well. As we have said before, he is one of the best writers on the Patriot League beat. We're not sure why he posed it as a question instead of an answer, but if he truly wonders, he would be one of the few, outside of maybe Lehigh's athletic department, who seriously thinks the Mountain Hawks have any chance of contending in the league.

    Hey, they might surprise us all. Stranger things have happened.

    Just look at how Bucknell's youngsters got hot in conference play last year.

    Realistically, though, even before they lost at home (box score) to the dregs of the Ivy League, the more honest question about Lehigh would seem to be "Is Lehigh ready to beat out its rivals from Lafayette for the No. 4 seed in the Patriot League tournament?

    Speaking of the Leopards, before reading too much into their 79-64 loss at St. Francis (NY) (box score) last night, be aware they played without Andrei Capusan and Pat Betley, who both sat out with injuries. On top of that, Jamaal Douglas was injured in the first half, though he returned and played 14 minutes in the second half.

    Capusan's injury appears to be chronic. According to the Lafayette pregame notes, he has "retro calcaneal bursitis that has been accompanied by achilles tendonitis. The ailment has caused pain for Capusan when he runs and jumps." Betley sat out several games earlier in the season due to a concussion and also has had shin problems.

    No word yet on their status for Saturday against Navy.

    Rounding out a dreadful night for the Patriots, Columbia bounced back from its loss at Lafayette to beat winless (remember, D-3s don't count) Army, 75-59 (box score).

    Too early to tell what all this will mean to the conference's RPI, though it can't be good. Already this week, Navy's loss at Air Force was enough to drop the Patriot down a spot to No. 24, behind the Atlantic Sun (that link if for those who say: Who the hell is in the Atlantic Sun?), after cresting at No. 23 in the wake of Sunday's fine showing by PL teams.

    What we do know is that with Lehigh and Army losing to Ivies, the season series between the two conferences now stands at Ivies 11, Patriots 7, with four games to play, including tonight's Dartmouth at Holy Cross matchup.

    Since Army doesn't play in any of those four, we're not ready to ship the mythical trophy to the Ivies just yet. But since one of those is Navy at Columbia (Jan. 17) and another is Penn at Lafayette (Jan. 18), we will stop at the UPS store for some styrofoam peanuts and packing tape.

    The other remaining PL-Ivy game is Jan. 10, American at Yale. Maybe we should start filling out the shipping label now, eh?

    Read more!

    One bad point guard

    We mean that the way the kids use the word ... you know, as in "bad means good dad."

    Abe Badmus (hey, maybe we should work harder for a pun here), Bucknell's lightning bug point guard and layup swatter (we still get a kick out of that unlikely game-saver), has been named to Kyle's pre-conference play All-Mid Major team over at Mid-Majority.com.

    We knew Kyle knew a little about hoops when he wrote a glowing report on Badmus after Bucknell's loss at Penn (sorry, too lazy to dig out the link). Abe is not a big scorer, he is averaging less than 5 ppg, but he does all the things you want a point guard to do, like distributing the ball, harassing opposing guards, and, yes, sneaking up from behind to block breakaway layups.

    It was Badmus' insertion into Bucknell's starting lineup last season that led to the Bison's conference run and his return to health from a nagging preseason hip injury that has keyed BU's recent successes (we are convinced had he and Chris McNaugton been at full speed early, the Bison would have at least one more win -- and maybe one more loss since beating Princeton would have meant a dome date with Syracuse).

    Few basketball pundits have the insight to recognize anything more than stats. Most would go with the high scoring guy as their all-anything player. That Kyle recognizes Badmus' talents tells us a lot about his knowledge of the game.

    Of course it might also have a little to do with Kyle actually getting out and seeing players. A lot of so-called experts know only what they see on Sportscenter, or read in the mainstream press.

    Kyle is a quarter of the way through his ambitious plan to see 100 games this season. I doubt Dickie V. or Jay Bilas will see anywhere near that many.

    While you are checking out Badmus' honor, be sure to scroll down for Kyle's account of his latest hoops adventure, last night's Brown-Providence game. As usual, it is a very enjoyable read.

    While we are busy blowing smoke up other bloggers' backsides, let us credit Yoni over at the College Basketball blog with an assist for finding this piece by Jake Curtis in the San Francisco Examiner on Bucknell's win over Pittsburgh.

    Curtis said yesterday's Bucknell Backcourt Club luncheon drew 150 people to the elegantly restored and remodeled Lewisburg Hotel. Normally these things draw about a quarter of that.

    Now if they can only do that with the crowds at Sojka.

    We make both Kyle's and Yoni's sites regular clicks each morning, and strongly suggest any hoops fans do the same.

    Read more!

    AU at Mizzou heads tonight's slate

    Could the Patriot League be poised to pull off another upset?

    That is what American will look to do tonight when it visits Missouri.

    To be certain, this is not an impossibility for American. Quin Snyder's Tigers have been inconsistent all season, suffering through a three-game losing streak early that included a home loss to Davidson. There have also been some near misses against mid-majors like Brown (68-60), Oakland (70-61) and Murray State (59-55).

    Another possible factor that could work to AU's advantage is the fact that the game comes on the heels of back-to-back games against ranked opponents and just five days after the Tigers' big win over Gonzaga. It also falls four days before Saturday's Big 12 opener with Iowa State.

    It could be easy for Mizzou to overlook American in that scheduling valley. When a team takes a night off, it is usually most evident on the defensive end. A lack of defensive intensity against a team that shoots the ball as well as AU could be fatal. American is shooting better than 48 percent from the field, including a sparkling 42 percent from three-point range. That three-point shooting ability also gives the Eagles a puncher's chance every time out.

    When Missouri has struggled, defense has been a big factor. Davidson shot 60 percent from the field, including 10-of-18 from outside the arc when they upset the Tigers in November. Creighton shot nearly 50 percent for the game when they knocked off Missouri, including 57 percent in the first half when they built a built a 17-point lead.

    On the other hand, as Mizzou's game notes point out:
    One of the main focuses of the Tigers' efforts has been and will be improving on the defensive end. Its no secret how the Tigers have won five of their last seven contests. Mizzou has given up only 60.6 points per contest during that stretch.
    Interesting note, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
    Missouri forward Linas Kleiza and American guard Linas Lekavicius played together on the Lithuanian under-20 basketball team that took third place in the European Championships this summer. Combined, Missouri and American have four Lithuanian players on their rosters.
    Get more on Missouri here.

    No free audio, but you can follow the action on Gametracker. It is also being televised on the Mizzou Sports Network for those with a satellite dish and the ingenuity to find the game.

    Elsewhere: Columbia at Army , 7 p.m. (Gametracker)

    Cornell at Lehigh , 7 p.m.

    Lafayette at St. Francis (N.Y.), 7 p.m. (Free audio from SFC network)

    Read more!

    More fallout from Bucknell's upset of Pitt

    The loss to Bucknell cost Pittsburgh it's spot in the latest coaches' poll. The Panthers fell to No. 12 in the USA TODAY/ESPN poll released Monday.

    Unlike the AP and Mid-Major polls, which showed the Bison some respect after their win, the coaches did not toss any votes Bucknell's way, even though two of the coaches with a vote, Phil Martelli of Saint Joseph's and Niagara's Joe Mihalich have lost to the Bison.

    Before anybody gets upset with Martelli or Mihalich (or their Sports Information Directors, since they often are the ones actually casting these votes), it is worth noting that Pat Flannery also is on the panel, and chose not to vote for his own team.

    Meanwhile, the spin in Pittsburgh is to blame the loss on Pittsburgh's youth.

    In the postgame, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said:
    We are young on the perimeter. I said all along our defense isn’t where it needs to be. I think our experience on the perimeter is a bunch of guys that haven’t played many minutes besides Carl [Krauser] and our post-defense has two sophomores.
    Newsflash, Jamie ... the guys the sophomores in the post were guarding most of the night were Chris McNaughton-- a sophomore, John Clark-- another soph, and freshman Darren Mastropaolo. Chris Niesz, the only senior on the Bucknell roster, also saw time in the frontcourt. But Niesz is certainly no Chevon Troutman.

    From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
    Dixon said the reason behind the struggles is mostly due to experience. Dixon graduated two of the best defenders in Division I after last season in Julius Page and Jaron Brown . . .

    Their replacements -- senior Yuri Demetris, sophomore Antonio Graves and freshman Ronald Ramon, who are sharing the shooting guard and swing position duties -- are playing extended minutes for the first time in their college careers.
    Over at the Tribune-Review, a similar angle:
    Dixon said Pitt's young perimeter players have had difficulty meeting the expectations set by the defensive play of Jaron Brown and Julius Page in years past . . .
    Dixon also said in the postgame, "We're a young team."

    Come on Jamie. You have three seniors to Bucknell's one. All three are fifth-year kids. Sure you have nine freshmen and sophomores on the roster, but again, four are redshirts, as is junior Carl Krauser.

    We are not buying the young team routine for a second. After all, six of the Bucknell kids who played against Pittsburgh are sophomores or freshmen. Not a redshirt on the roster, either.

    Bottom line, Bucknell outplayed Pitt. Maybe if they played 10 times, Pittsburgh would win seven. Certainly they should. Hell, they should win all 10. But they didn't win this one and it's time to quit the whining and give credit where due.

    Read more!

    Anchors (lose) away

    Twenty four hours after what was one of the best days in Patriot League hoops history, Navy reminded everyone why the league gets such little respect by getting the snot kicked out of them again. At least this time it wasn't by a Division III team; Air Force 69, Navy 46.

    With an RPI of 314 out of 330 Division I schools, Navy can take solace knowing that at least they are not as bad as their archrivals on the Hudson (330).

    From the AP story:
    Air Force (8-5), which has the top-ranked scoring defense in the nation, also got 31 points off 19 turnovers, hounding a young, small team from Navy (4-8) that lost for the sixth time in seven games.
    Although Air Force fans seem to think it was all about the Falcons defense, a look at the box score makes it obvious it was more Navy's lack of D that made the difference. Sure the Middies had those 19 turnovers, but they did shoot 50 percent from the field. That's hardly the product of shutdown defense by Air Force.

    The problem, for Navy, was that it allowed Air Force to shoot 60 percent at the other end.

    Navy, by the way, is not the first team to shoot well against Air Force. Opponents are hitting at a 47-percent clip

    Are we sure these guys all work for the Defense Department?

    For those who actually care, here's on the game another story , courtesy of the Denver Post.

    Read more!

    Monday news and notes

    BUCKNELL CRACKS MID-MAJOR POLL: The Bison check in at No. 24 in the latest Mid-Major Top 25. It's the Bison's first-ever appearance in the poll. Holy Cross is in the "others receiving votes" with four votes.

    BISON GET VOTES: The latest AP Poll, released this afternoon, shows Bucknell picking up four votes after wins over St. Joe's and Pittsburgh in the past week. The Bison are one of 15 teams in the "also receiving votes" category, and would rank No. 35 if AP actually ranked all teams that get votes.

    Pittsburgh drops from No. 10 to No. 16 following the loss to Bucknell. West Virginia (21) and Boston College (25) are new additions to the Top 25 this week. N.C. State and Virginia drop out.

    McNaughton is the Player of the Week following Bucknell’s 69-66 upset of No. 10 Pittsburgh, the defending Big East champion. The sophomore center from Germany scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbed four rebounds while going head-to-head with Chris Taft, the reigning Rookie of the Year in the Big East. He also scored 10 points in the Bison’s 69-62 mid-week win at Saint Joseph’s, an Elite Eight team a year ago. BU has now won six straight and McNaughton is second on the squad with 13.1 points per game.

    Abdullah earns his second Rookie of the Week award this season after averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game during a 1-1 week for the Leopards. The freshman forward from Anchorage, Alaska scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and tallied four steals in a loss at No. 9 Georgia Tech, and then totaled 11 points, three rebounds and two assists as Lafayette rung in the New Year with a 65-62 win over Columbia. Abdullah has been the Leopards’ leading scorer on three occasions during his rookie campaign.

    OTHER OFFICIAL BUSINESS: Here's a few notes copied and pasted straight from the Patriot League's weekly basketball release.

  • Bucknell’s upset of (then) No. 10 Pittsburgh on Sunday was the first time in Patriot League history a team from the conference beat a top 10 team. Two other current league members also have beaten top 10 teams, but both those wins came before they were members of the league. The first came by Holy Cross, the second by American. The Crusaders upset No. 8 Providence, 68-67 on March 5, 1977, while AU beat No. 5 Georgetown, 62-61 on Dec. 16, 1982. Apparently HC's NCAA title came before there was such a thing as an AP poll.

  • The CSTV/PL television package for 2004-05 tips off with BU’s matchup against Holy Cross at Sojka Pavilion on Saturday at 2 p.m. By the way, admission is free for this one. Bucknell is hoping to lure a good crowd for TV while the students are still on break.

  • HC Jr. G Kevin Hamilton hit his 100th career three-point field goal in Sunday’s victory over Rhode Island. He also moved into the PL’s all-time top 25 in steals. Through 71 career games, he has amassed 129 thefts.

  • Colgate Sr. F Andrew Zidar has gone over 400 rebounds for his career, while Jr. G Alvin Reed surpassed the 600-point total.

  • American So. G Andre Ingram knocked down three 3-pointers against Delaware Sunday, climbing to seventh all-time at AU in the process with 105 career triples.

  • As a team, the Eagles are shooting an impressive 42.0 percent from 3-point land on the season, tops in the PL. AU ranked third nationally in that category at 46.7 percent in the NCAA's Dec. 21 stats report.

  • Lehigh has now won two consecutive road games for the first time since January of 2003 following the Mountain Hawks’ 59-45 win at Wagner.

  • Despite coming off the bench all season, Lafayette's Sr. center Sean Knitter is the only Leopard currently averaging double digits in points. He leads the club with 11.4 points per game.

  • With the win over Rhode Island Sunday, Holy Cross has now won eight straight against Atlantic 10 opponents.

    Read more!
  • An incredible win for Bucknell

    Abe Badmus blocks Carl Krauser's layup in this photo from ESPN's galley. Click on the photo for the complete gallery. Badmus' block was the PECO Power Play of the Day on Comcast Sportsnet Philly's Sportsrise show. You can catch the highlight again at the end of the 10 o'clock replay (just before 11)

    It is definitely the biggest upset in Bucknell's 109-plus years of basketball.

    Until someone can remind me of a bigger one, we're going to call it the biggest win in the Patriot League's 15-year history, too.

    There have been some big wins in those 15 years, but none that we can recall over a team ranked as high as the Pittsburgh Panther team that Bucknell knocked off last night in a shock the nation 69-66 win.

    Shock the nation wouldn't seem to be hyperbole. The game is this morning's "cover story" on ESPN.com's college basketball section.

    In the AP story on ESPN's site, Bison coach Pat Flannery was asked to put the win into perspective. He couldn't
    :"I don't know where to put it," Flannery said. "You don't play these games on your schedule without thinking you can come in and beat them. I felt like we could come in and play with them. I'll put it in perspective when I calm down."
    We will try to give Flannery an assist here. Put it at the top of the list Pat.

    Flannery's 1994 Lebanon Valley team won the NCAA D-III title. That might come close on his personal list. For Bucknell, though, there is nothing close.

    That is not to say they have not upset some name foes in the past. In the 1995-96 season, Flannery's team knocked off a pretty good San Francisco team on the road in its season-opener and later that season the Bison upset Alabama in a game the Bucknell media guide refers to as "one of the school's biggest victories of all time."

    But neither of those teams were ranked at the time. Nor was the Princeton team Bucknell beat in the '96-'97 season.

    A look at Bucknell's all-time series records shows some victories that would seem like big name wins today -- Temple, Wyoming, Villanova, South Carolina, La Salle, St. Joe's, Fresno St., Arizona St.-- but most of those wins (with the obvious exception of last week's win over Saint Joseph's) were long ago, in a very different era. For example, BU has beaten Temple five times (and lost to the Owls 29 times), but the last time it happened was in 1959, when the Ben Kribbs coached Bison went 16-7. That team also had a win over Pittsburgh, by the way. They beat Rutgers, too and had two wins over Penn State. It's also the team that beat South Carolina.

    None of those wins were on the same magnitude as last night's though. As one poster over on the Holy Cross message board put it, "If BU wins the league, that win is a 'get out of 16 seed free' card."

    The Hoops Junkie quickly jumped on the Bucknell bandwagon, saying this morning:
    This, my friends, is a team that has Sweet 16 written all over it.
    We won't know until later today what this does for the Bison's RPI, or the league's for that matter, though with Patriot League teams winning five out of six Sunday, even Army's loss to No. 318 Cornell shouldn't keep it from improving. (UPDATE: see post below for the latest RPI numbers).

    Here's what some others have to say about the Bucknell win:

    In the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Dave Mackall writes:
    So, you think Pitt was untouchable against the blur of non-conference schools parading into Petersen Events Center during the past three seasons?

    Think again . . .

    Bucknell led for nearly the entire first half as the Bison's inside game gave Pitt fits. Both teams shot at a high level over the first 20 minutes -- the Panthers putting up the best numbers (61.1 percent) compared to 59.3 for the Bison.

    Pitt also held the edge in rebounding, 13-8.

    But the score is what mattered most, and Bucknell was in control.
    Ray Fittipaldo, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, remarked:
    Bucknell, from the Patriot League, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season last night by beating No. 10 Pitt, 69-66, at the Petersen Events Center . . .

    Bucknell shot better than 51 percent from the field and forced 18 Pitt turnovers. Fifteen of those turnovers came in the first half as the Panthers fumbled away pass after pass.
    We already posted links to the box score below. We will update with more later today, along with more on the rest of the league action from Sunday.

    Read more!

    It was a very good day indeed

    Bucknell wasn't the only team with a win Sunday.

    Overshadowed by the Bison's upset of Pitt was what was perhaps the Patriot League's best non-conference day of the season. Six teams saw action, five of them won. Only lowly Army, which fell to almost-as-lowly Cornell (AP wrap|Box score), ended up on the short side of the scoreboard.

    It was an impressive enough showing to get the attention of the Hoops Junkie, who wrote, "five Patriot League schools took someone behind the woodshed to start the new year" in its introduction to what it refers to as its "tour of Patriot ass-whuppings."

    All told, the five Patriot League wins were enough to jump the conference up two spots over the weekend to No. 23 in the conference RPI.

    Bucknell, by the way, zoomed from No. 105 to N0. 68 with the win over Pittsburgh. Holy Cross remains the league's best RPI team at No. 38. American also moved up from 137 to 111. (Click here foror the rest of the Patriot League's RPI rankings.)

    Holy Cross, which will have one more tuneup, Wed. vs. Dartmouth, before Saturday's conference showdown with Bucknell, used its trademark stingy defense to win at Rhode Island, 51-10 (AP wrap|Box score w/play-by-play).

    Here's an excerpt from today's story in the Worcester paper. As usual, no link since they require a subscription
    :"Today was two teams playing exceptionally hard and aggressive," (Ralph) Willard said. "I thought the defense at both ends of the floor was special."

    "Special" is the Crusaders holding the Rams to 34.6 percent from the field, including a 15.8 percent performance from behind the 3-point arc. They did not allow a field goal in the final five minutes of the game.

    The Rams were just as stingy, allowing 38.9 and 21.1 percent in the same categories. They did not allow a field goal in the final four minutes.

    The key for Holy Cross was the play of sophomore point guard Torey Thomas. He scored 11 points, dished out 5 assists and had only 2 turnovers against heavy pressure from URI.
    Paul Kenyon of the Providence Journal made a pretty good point in the lead of his game story:
    When a basketball team is trailing by four points heading into the final five minutes and is unable to score a field goal the rest of the way, it usually doesn't win . . .

    Four times in the final 70 seconds, URI had possession of the ball with a chance to win. But the Holy Cross defense prevented the Rams from scoring.
    Fun note from that game, courtesy of the Projo:
    Gregg Burke, URI's new deputy athletic director, had a problem yesterday. He is a Holy Cross grad who has worked for his alma mater and became an active supporter of the school. "Who else would wear a tie like this?" Burke said, proudly showing off a necktie with stripes of Keaney blue and Holy Cross' royal purple.
    In Easton, Lafayette picked up a nice 65-62 win over a pretty good Columbia team ((Lafayette Web site recap)|(Box Score)).

    As the headline on Corky Blake's story in the Express Times said, The Leopards are putting together the pieces. For those of you not paying attention, this was Lafayette's third win in its last four starts. Granted one of those wins was over a D-III, but then, too, the loss was to No. 9 Georgia Tech.

    Bottom line, as we have said before, Fran O'Hanlon has this team improving each time out. If one of the supposed top teams in the league doesn't watch out, the Leopards are going to trip them up.

    American won on the road, beating Delaware 64-58 (Box score) in Newark, Del.

    AU started slow, then closed strong, according to the story in the Wilmington News-Journal:
    Delaware failed to score on its last five possessions of the first half, but still went into intermission up 32-27.

    American then scored on six of its first eight possessions of the second half and never trailed after Patrick Okpwae's two foul shots inched the Eagles ahead 41-39 with 14:23 to go. They were part of a 22-5 American run in which Delaware had six turnovers and made two of eight shots over 13 possessions.
    Lehigh was also a winner, topping Wagner, 59-50. (AP wrap|Box score w/play-by-play)

    In tonight's action:

    Navy visits Air Force (9:05 p.m.). The Patriot League Web site also lists a Princeton at Colgate game on tonight's schedule, but if that is actually going to happen, it will be news to Colgate, which does not show any game tonight on its schedule.

    Read more!

    Bison win, Bison win

    Bucknell 69, No. 10 Pittsburgh 66 -- In what might well be the biggest win by a Patriot League team since the league began play in 1990, Bucknell upset previously unbeaten No. 10 Pittsburgh Sunday night in Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

    Chris McNaughton led the Bison with 17 points. Charles Lee added 14 and Kevin Bettencourt chipped in with 13 for the Bison, who won for the sixth time in a row to improve to 9-4 on the season.

    The Bison used tough defense to build a 42-33 lead at the half, and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to nail down the win after Pitt rallied to take a 64-62 lead with 2:02 to play.

    Bettencourt, who was 1-for-6 from the field at that point, tied it with a jumper in the paint and converted a free throw for an old fashioned three-point play and the lead.

    A Krauser jumper put Pittsburgh back up by one, but Bettencourt hit a pair of free throws at the other end to put the Bison ahead to stay. Lee hit two free throws with 2 seconds left to ice the win.

    Pittsburgh is the highest ranked team Bucknell has ever beaten in its 109-plus years of hoops. The loss was just the third ever for Pittsburgh in Petersen (43-3) and the Panthers first in 48 non conference games at home. It snapped Pitts' 25-game non conference regular season win streak.

    Bucknell is now 4-2 on the road after going 2-11 away from home last season.

    Box score/Play-by-Play | (Updated AP wrap w/quotes) | Pitt Web site wrap

    (more in the morning)

    Read more!

    A busy Sunday afternoon

    An updated look at this afternoon's schedule. We will post wraps and box scores as they become available.

    American 64, Delaware 58 -- Andre Ingram led AU with 20 points as the Eagles overcame a 5-point deficit at the half. Bench watch: AU's reserves combined for 8 points and 6 rebounds. Here's a Box score.

    Lehigh 59, Wagner 50 -- (AP wrap) Lehigh pounds the ball inside, outscoring Wagner 30-14 in the paint. Jason Mgebroff led the Mountain Hawks with 13 points. (Box score, play-by-play)

    Cornell 58, Army 50 (final) -- The Cadets live up to their No. 330 RPI. (AP wrap) (Box score)

    Lafayette 65, Columbia 62 (final) -- Three players score 11 points each to lead the 'Pards to a quality win over the Lions. (Box Score) (Lafayette Web site recap)

    Holy Cross 51, Rhode Island 50 -- From the AP wrap:
    Holy Cross missed five foul shots and had a costly turnover in the final minutes of the game, but Rhode Island failed to capture the lead. Neither team scored a field goal in the final 4:02.
    The Crusaders won despite shooting just 39 percent from the field and 41 percent from the foul line, thanks to typical HC defense, which held URI to 35 percent from the field. (Box score, play-by-play)

    Bucknell is at Pittsburgh. Sports Network preview

    For more on Bucknell-Pittsburgh, see below.

    Read more!
    Saturday, January 08, 2005
    Ramblin' Man

    Bucknell 59, Holy Cross 43 (Telegram-Gazette version)


    Morning shootaround
    Friday, January 07, 2005
    From every angle, this one looks close

    Around the Patriot League
    Thursday, January 06, 2005
    HC tunes up with win over Dartmouth
    Wednesday, January 05, 2005
    The Eagles have landed

    . . . the rest of a dreary night for the Patriot League

    One bad point guard
    Tuesday, January 04, 2005
    AU at Mizzou heads tonight's slate

    More fallout from Bucknell's upset of Pitt

    Anchors (lose) away
    Monday, January 03, 2005
    Monday news and notes

    An incredible win for Bucknell

    It was a very good day indeed
    Sunday, January 02, 2005
    Bison win, Bison win

    A busy Sunday afternoon

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