LEWISBURG -- Goliaths beware! Bucknell has its dancing shoes on and its bringing its slingshot back to the NCAA tournament.
For the first time since upsetting Kansas and Arkansas in consecutive tournaments in 2005 and 2006, the Bison are part of March Madness, capping off a dominating run in the Patriot League on Friday afternoon.
Mike Muscala scored 18 points and Bucknell led wire-to-wire for the second game in a row as the Bison clinched their fifth NCAA tournament bid all-time with a 72-57 victory over Lafayette in front of 4,271 fans at a jam-packed Sojka Pavilion.
The victory improves Bucknell to 25-8 overall, the second most wins in school history, and erases memories of coach Dave Paulsen's first season when the Bison went 7-23 just two years ago.
"This is my 17th year as a head coach," said Paulsen. "I've never had a group that has practiced harder, with more focus, and was more coachable, and you want that rewarded."
Bucknell's reward is its third Patriot League title since 2005 and a berth in the NCAA field. The full field of 68 will be announced Sunday night and the Bison, who have won 23 of 25 games since Dec. 1.
Muscala, the most decorated of Bison (league Player of the Year, tournament MVP, first-team all-league and all-academic) would trade all his accolades for what he and his teammates accomplished.
"My only goal for this year was what we did (Friday), to win a championship," he said.
Lafayette (13-19), the first team not seeded in the top four to reach the Patriot League tournament, put up a game fight, but the Bison just had too much. They had too much balance on offense, too much intensity on defense, and too much fan support from a raucous crowd, the third largest in Sojka history.