The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 14, 2013

Men's basketball: Bison hold off Penn State in back-and-forth game


Daily Item

---- — By Tim Owen

For The Daily Item

STATE COLLEGE -- Following Bucknell's 90-80 shootout win over Penn State, opposing head coach Patrick Chambers called the Bucknell a "buzz saw."

Only twice last season Penn State scored 80 or more points in regulation. Both efforts resulted in victories. That was not the case after Wednesday's game in the Bryce Jordan Center. In other words, the Nittany Lions head coach said there seemed to be no answer for Bucknell, who was rebounding after a tough loss to Stanford on Saturday.

Penn State secured a lead at halftime, but in a game that featured nine different lead changes and six ties, it was an energy-draining night for both team's

"It wore out the coaches, I know that," Bison head coach Dave Paulsen said. "I think both teams were trying to defend really hard and (the high score) wasn't for a lack of effort on either parts. This game was played on a really high level tonight."

Penn State junior guard D.J. Nebwill opened the game with a 3-point shot before senior Ben Brackney fired back with a 3-pointer for Bucknell. The back-and-forth seemed to be a precursor for the first half. Penn State jumped out to an early lead as they nailed 10 of their first 11 shots. But Bucknell wouldn't back off as it continued to match Penn State's pace nearly shot-for-shot.

That was especially true for Ben Brackney. Through the first 10 minutes, the senior guard was 4-for-4 from the arc, and his teammates out-rebounded Penn State during the first 20 minutes. Their early effort helped the Bison tie the game 26-all with eight minutes left in the first half. Then Penn State reeled off a 15-point scoring run to take a 41-36 lead into halftime, thanks in large part to Penn State star senior Tim Frazier, who who tallied nine points, four assists and two steals in his first 13 minutes of play.

After halftime, Bucknell became the aggressor.

Frazier missed Penn State's first shot attempt of the half. Then junior co-captain Steven Kaspar replied with a wide-open three pointer for the Bison. A layup from Brian Fitzpatrick followed by another Kaspar field goal put Bucknell up 43-41, the fifth lead change of the evening.

"Kaspar was absolutely terrific," Chambers said. "He was terrific last year and he was good against Stanford."

But after a foul by Bucknell senior guard Ryan Hill, Penn State junior forward Ross Travis notched a field goal to regain the lead for Penn State, 45-43. The Nittany Lions maintained their lead until fewer than 12 minutes remained in the second half.

That is when senior co-captain Cameron Ayers, a preseason All-Patriot league selection, drained a three off a fast break and put Bucknell back in front, 57-55. It wouldn't relinquish the advantage.

Bucknell immediately added two more points after a Frazier foul, which put the All-Big Ten point guard into foul trouble.

Chambers sat him temporarily. By the time Frazier came back on the floor, Bucknell was building its biggest lead of the night. The Bison scored 12 points in two minutes to build a commanding 71-60 lead.

Said Frazier, "(Bucknell) did a great job, they shot it well, and they came out with the win."

Added Chambers, "There were possessions where we completely lost our focus. We didn't know who had who. It's stuff like that we have to work on. Bottom line is that they hit a ton of shots. There's no denying that."

Penn State -- behind the performance of Newbill who posted eight second-half points -- attempted a late comeback, but Bucknell fended it off and captured the victory.

The win was the first for the Bison in 12 meetings.

"It was a very gratifying win," Paulsen said. "I thought our guys showed a lot of toughness and resilience, especially in the second half."

While Brackney was Bucknell's star of the first half, Kaspar finished with a team-high 25 points while playing 34 minutes. He also added four assists, two steals and a block. As a team, Bucknell shot 66.7 percent from the arc.

"In the first half Brackney really got hot so that really opened up driving lanes for Kaspar and vice versa," Paulsen explained. "We're the type of team that can do that but I don't know if we can do that all the time. Last year we didn't play a lot of (small basketball). We relied more on our inside game but I feel like were morphing into a more outside attack."

Ayers was the second-leading scorer with 19 points and he played a team-high 35 minutes.

Added Paulsen, "Obviously, offensively, Steve Kaspar was nothing short of tremendous -- not only scoring the ball but assisting. I thought Cameron Ayers really came alive for us in the second half, too."