Courtesy of BucknellBison.com
WEST POINT, N.Y. – Cameron Ayers scored 19 points and Bryson Johnson had 17 while becoming the all-time Patriot League leader in 3-point field goals, leading Bucknell to a hard-fought 60-58 road win over Army on Saturday at Christl Arena. The Bison never trailed in the game but had to sweat it out at the end, as Dylan Cox’s potential tying jumper rimmed out just before the final buzzer. The win gives Bucknell three straight 20-win seasons for the second time in program history, and the Bison will maintain at least a share of the Patriot League lead at 7-1 pending Lehigh’s result at Holy Cross later in the day.
Johnson got out to a cold start, missing his first six 3-pointers, but he nailed his last three of the night, all at critical junctures of the second half. He now has 303 career treys, one more than American’s Garrison Carr, the previous league-record-holder. Johnson also had eight rebounds and a career-high six assists, and he keyed a strong team defensive effort.
Ayers hit two clutch treys and another pull-up jumper in the final 5:55 to give him a season-high 19 points. Mike Muscala had a tough night offensively going 3-for-12 from the floor, but he still finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds to tie the national lead with 17 double-doubles. Muscala also moved past Bob Barry into second place on Bucknell’s all-time rebounds list with 989.
Johnson’s second triple of the day gave Bucknell a 47-36 lead with 8:46 left, but the Black Knights (10-13, 3-5), who entered the day in a tie for fourth place in the Patriot League, got back in it. Kyle Wilson scored seven straight Army points, the last two getting his team within 49-45 with 6:28 left. Ayers answered with a three from the left wing.
Ella Ellis cut the lead to two at 52-50, but then just inside the four-minute mark Joe Willman skipped a pass to Johnson on the left side, and Johnson drained one from about 27 feet out. Twice more Army pulled within a single possession, but both times Ayers had answers, first with a 12-footer and then with a 3-pointer with 2:16 left that gave the Bison a 60-54 lead.
But those would be the team’s final points of the night. Twice Ellis made both ends of a 1-and-1, the final two pulling the Black Knights within 60-58 with 1:27 left.
After an Ayers miss, Army went to Ellis in the lane, but Willman rejected his shot, then dove on the floor to force a tie-up with 45 seconds left. Bucknell had the arrow, but Muscala’s lefty jumper just outside the lane didn’t go.
At the other end, Cox found a seam down the lane, but Muscala swatted away his layup attempt. Cox tracked down the loose ball near the baseline, and Army called timeout with 8.9 seconds left. The Black Knights went to Wilson, their top shooter, but freshman Ryan Frazier made a great defensive play to force Wilson to retreat his dribble back near mid-court. Wilson had to give the ball up to Cox, whose 17-foot jumper drew only back iron. Johnson corralled the rebound as the buzzer sounded, and the Bison clinched the 12th 20-win season in program history.
Bucknell also produced three straight 20-win seasons in 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Both teams were ice-cold in the first half. Bucknell shot 29.6 percent and Army 28.6 percent in the opening half, and the Bison took a 25-21 lead to the locker room.
The Bison completed a season sweep of Army and have now beaten the Black Knights six straight times. Bucknell also picked up its 10th road win of the season, tying Stony Brook for the national lead.
Bucknell returns to action on Wednesday at home against Colgate. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.