The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 3, 2012

Men's basketball: Bison set the stage for anticipated Patriot final

LEWISBURG -- The final everybody wanted to see is coming to a Sojka Pavilion near you.

Just hours as after Lehigh dismantled third-seeded American to secure a spot in the Patriot League title game, Bucknell followed suit on Saturday afternoon. Mike Muscala and Joe Willman scored 18 points each and the Bison steamrolled their way back into the championship game with a 79-52 rout of Lafayette at Sojka.

That means the top teams in the Patriot League, featuring the two best players, will settle things the right way: Wednesday night at Bucknell in the Patriot League title game with the winner heading to the NCAA tournament. Tip off for the nationally televised game is set for 7 p.m.

The Bison (24-8) used a huge surge at the end of the first half to build a 20-point lead, then held off a push from the Leopards in the first few minutes of the second half before stepping on the gas and leaving Lafayette (13-18) in their wake.

Bucknell became the first team in the history of the Patriot League tournament to win the first two rounds of the tournament by at least 20 points. The Bison won for the seventh consecutive time against Lafayette, and extended their streak to 14 in a row over Lafayette in Lewisburg. They still have never lost to the Leopards in Sojka Pavilion.

"We were in here three weeks ago and we played a really efficient offensive game against (Lafayette) but had really let them score," said Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen. "We really challenged our guys to step it up on the defensive end. Our guys were really, really focused."

In two meetings against Lafayette this year, the Bison had allowed 24 combined 3-pointers and the Leopards drained 13-of-19 in a quarterfinal win at Holy Cross on Wednesday. This time Bucknell extended its perimeter defense, while giving up some things inside, as they smothered the Leopards' shooters.

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