By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG - Four days after upsetting Purdue University on the road, the Bucknell Bison basketball team opened its home season at Sojka Pavilion before a raucous crowd of 3,272, with a tense, nail-biting, edge-of-your seat 61-56 defeat of George Mason University.
The Bison record is now 2-0.
As the game began, students and long-time fans filed quietly into the arena, socializing with old friends and dressed to the nines in orange and blue.
It took a few minutes — and a ferocious slam dunk by Bucknell’s all-star center Mike Muscala — to get the crowd roaring. Meanwhile, the Sojka Psychos, in mid-season form, raised the energy level, and everyone in the crowd rode along for a topsy-turvy ride, with the Bison fighting off their hard-nosed opponent.
So much is expected of this team, after two consecutive 25-win seasons, said Willis Marjorie, who came to the game with his wife, Emmie, from their home in Selinsgrove. “I saw the Purdue game on TV, and the Bison looked real good. I had to see them for myself. I love college basketball. Bucknell is a first-class team, and this is a quality game.”
Josephine Pallin said she hasn’t missed an opening game in nearly 10 years. A Milton resident, she proudly wore her orange T-shirt, and orange cap and found it hard to sit still in the early going.
“Even though we’re ahead, I don’t feel comfortable,” she said. “After all, this George Mason team beat the University of Virginia a few days ago.”
Pallin’s 6 year-old daughter seemed a little awed by it all and seemed more interested in the fast food than the fast breaks.
“But she’ll come around,” her mother joked. “I’m not a Bucknell graduate, but they’re our hometown team, and we have to support them. I’m expecting a good year from them.”
In the last two years the team has an overall record of 50-19, and has appeared in both the NCAA Tournament, the Big Dance, and last year, the National Invitational Tournament, where they beat a highly ranked Arizona Wildcats team.
“The sky’s the limit for us,” Pallin said, hugging her daughter to her side. “It’s just the start for us, but I have a good feeling we’re going to be nationally ranked this year. I like us. I like the Bison a lot.”