Bucknell opens Patriot League play with win over Army, 76-55

Courtesy of BucknellBison.com

LEWISBURG, Pa. – Mike Muscala came close to a triple-double with 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists before departing with 7:38 to play, and Bucknell also got major contributions from Joe Willman and Cameron Ayers in a 76-55 win over Army in the Patriot League opener for both teams. The Bison improved to 14-3 overall, matching their second-best 17-game start in program history.


Willman scored 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, leaving him just six points shy of 1,000 for his career. Ayers went 3-for-3 from the 3-point arc and logged 15 points and three assists without a turnover for the Bison, who improved to 6-0 at home this season.


Army scoring leader Ella Ellis was limited to just one shot and two points in the first half before rallying to lead the Black Knights (7-9, 0-1) with 17 on the night. Larry Toomey added 10 for Army, which came in averaging 74.2 points per game, the second-highest mark in the league.


The Black Knights substitute on nearly every dead ball and play at breakneck speed at both ends of the floor, but after a sluggish start the Bison were able to slow them down while getting their own shots to fall.


Bucknell went nearly four minutes into the game before scoring and started out 2-for-10. Army knocked down a couple of early threes took an 11-4 lead on Ellis’ jumper. Army’s cushion was still five at 17-12 at the 10-minute mark, but then Muscala and Willman sparked a major surge in the late stages of the half.


Muscala’s free throws kicked off a 20-2 run, and the Bison would lead by double-digits for the game’s final 23:23. Willman hit a pair of jumpers and Muscala scored in the lane off a nice feed from Ryan Hill to put the Bison in front for good at 20-19. Then Willman’s steal led to an Ayers 3-pointer, forcing an Army timeout.


Steven Kaspar, who had earlier given the Bison a big lift with a 3-pointer and a running bank shot in the lane, fed Willman for a short jumper. Bryson Johnson knocked down a fadeaway from the elbow, Muscala made two free throws and then fed Ryan Frazier for a 3-pointer that capped the run and gave Bucknell a 32-19 lead.


Toomey ended the surge with a 3-pointer, but the Bison took a 36-24 lead into the locker room.


Bucknell’s advantage ballooned to 20 at 49-29 after two more Muscala free throws – he was 10-for-10 on the night – before Army rallied a bit. Ellis twice cut it to 14 after treys by Ellis and Kyle Toth, but the Black Knights could not get any closer.


Ayers hit a big 3-pointer in transition to send the margin back to 19 at 64-45. Muscala departed after his two free throws with 7:38 to play made it 68-45, and the bench came on to close it out.


Bucknell shot 54.2 percent after that 2-for-10 start and 48.3 percent for the game. The Bison went 6-for-14 from 3-point range and 14-for-16 from the foul line. They turned the ball over just nine times – four of them coming on charging calls – and had 19 assists on 28 field goals.


Army shot 37.7 percent, meaning Bucknell has now held 13 of its last 15 opponents under 40 percent. The Black Knights went 7-for-19 from the arc and 8-for-11 from the line. The Bison also forced 15 turnovers, one shy of their season high.


Bucknell has never had a player record a triple-double, but Muscala came close in this one. He had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists at halftime, and his final numbers came in only 26 minutes. Muscala, who did get his 11thdouble-double of the season, also had three blocked shots and a steal, and he turned the ball over only once, that coming on an early charging call.


Muscala now has 902 career rebounds, making him only the fourth player in Bucknell history and the second in Patriot League history to reach the 900 plateau. Adonal Foyle was the only other Patriot Leaguer to top that milestone, while Hal Danzig, Bob Barry and Craig Greenwood are other only other Bison to do it. Barry was the most recent, all the way back in 1980.


This was Bucknell’s fifth straight win over Army, and the Bison won their league opener for the third straight year. They are now 70-14 all-time against Patriot League foes and 104-32 overall in Sojka Pavilion, which will reach its 10thbirthday on Tuesday.


The only other time Bucknell had a better record after 17 games was 1983-84, when the team started out 15-2. This is the sixth time the Bison have been 14-3.


Bucknell returns to action on Wednesday at Colgate at 7 p.m.



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