Red-Hot Bucknell Defeats American 56-51 For Sixth Straight Win

Posted on Saturday, March 1st, 2014 and is filed under Patriot. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Ayers (Courtesy of USA Today Sports Photos)

Ayers (Courtesy of USA Today Sports Photos)

Courtesy of

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chris Hass scored 15 points and Cory Starkey led another phenomenal effort on the glass with a career-high 11 rebounds to propel Bucknell to its sixth straight win to close out the regular season, 56-51 over American on Saturday afternoon at Bender Arena. The Bison were locked into the No. 4 seed at next week’s Patriot League Tournament regardless of the outcome, but they outrebounded American 45-26 and spoiled the second-place Eagles’ attempt to claim the top seed.

The hard-fought result gives Bucknell at least one victory over every team in the Patriot League this season, and the Bison head into the playoffs with a 16-13 overall record, 11-7 in the conference.

As it turned out, American (17-12, 13-5) would not have caught Boston University for the regular-season title since the Eagles pulled out a 68-64 win at Holy Cross shortly after the Bucknell-American game concluded. The Eagles will be the No. 2 seed and play the winner of Monday night’s 7-10 game.

Bucknell followed a familiar formula to victory in this one, dominating the glass while playing tough defense against an American team that entered the game ranked No. 2 nationally in field-goal percentage (.502). The Bison grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, which led to a 16-5 edge in second-chance points, and they now have a plus-86 rebounding margin during this six-game winning streak.

The biggest board of the day came from Starkey. The Bison had possession with a two-point lead inside a minute to play. With the shot clock winding down Hass had a shot in the lane partially blocked, but Starkey grabbed the air ball and stuck it back in to give Bucknell a 53-49 lead with 49 seconds remaining. American missed a three at the other end, Starkey skied for the rebound and then made 1 of 2 at the line to finish off a career-best nine-point, 11-rebound effort.

Entering play on Saturday American and Kansas were the only two teams in the country shooting over 50 percent as a team. But the Bison employed a strategy to leave select Eagles guards alone on the perimeter to clog up the lane for their Princeton-style offense. The plan worked, as American made only 5 of 25 3-point attempts while shooting a season-low 33.9 percent for the game.

The rebounding and defensive efforts allowed Bucknell to squeeze out a win on a day when it committed and uncharacteristic 16 turnovers and shot 42.0 percent from the field (2-for-9 from 3-point range).

After trailing 27-24 at halftime, American took a 35-34 lead on a running hook shot by Marko Vasic. But the Bison outscored the Eagles 9-0 over the next five minutes, highlighted by a Hass 3-point play and two straight buckets by Ayers.

Hass hit back-to-back shots inside six minutes to play to counter a quick 5-0 Eagles run. Charlie Jones hit a trey to bring American within 47-43, but then Steven Kaspar (six assists) made a great no-look feed to Starkey for a layup.

Hass splashed a 12-footer from the left baseline to put the Bison on top 51-45, but Tony Wroblicky answered with a layup for American. Wroblicky missed a free throw that could have made it a 3-point play, and then the two teams combined for five straight empty possessions before Jesse Reed hit two free throws to make it a 51-49 game with 1:11 left.

Starkey then came up with the game-winning play, extending his run of terrific play off the bench that has coincided with this six-game winning streak. Starkey now has 41 rebounds in those six games, including six or more in each of the last five. His nine points (on 4-for-5 shooting) against American was also a new career high.

Brian Fitzpatrick logged 10 points and eight rebounds and Ayers added nine points, ending his run of 22 straight double-digit outings. Reed was American’s lone double-figure scorer with 16 points.

Bucknell started the game 2-for-10 from the floor before warming up midway through the first half. The Bison hit 8 of 11 after the frosty start, and a Fitzpatrick jam off a pretty baseline feed by Kaspar kicked off a 14-2 run. Ayers and Azzinaro hit 3-pointers during the surge, and Fitzpatrick’s 17-footer gave the Bison a 26-19 lead with 4:06 left.

That would be Bucknell’s final field goal of the half, however, and a Jalen Rhea 3-pointer with 28 seconds left brought the Eagles within 27-24 at the break.

The victory was Bucknell’s fifth in a row at Bender Arena, and the Bison are now 34-21 all-time against American.

The Bucknell-Army Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal game will tip at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Sojka Pavilion. The game can be viewed live and free of charge on Bison Vision on the Patriot League Network.

Monday’s opening-round games will feature No. 7 Colgate hosting No. 10 Navy and No. 8 Loyola hosting No. 9 Lafayette. In the quarterfinals, top-seeded Boston University will face the 8-9 winner, and No. 2 American will host the 7-10 winner. The other quarterfinal matchup will pit No. 6 Lehigh at No. 3 Holy Cross.

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