---- — By William Bowman
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Mike Muscala inched closer to Bucknell's all-time scoring mark, teammate Cameron Ayers became the fourth active BU player to surpass the 1,000-point mark and the Bison pulled away from American for a 66-47 win at Sojka Pavilion on Wednesday night.
Oh, and the Bison became the first team in Patriot League history to win three consecutive regular-season titles.
So, really, it was a typical night in Lewisburg.
Ayers scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half and Muscala and classmate Bryson Johnson each scored 13 after intermission as the Bison (24-5, 11-2 PL) used a late surge to put the Eagles (10-18, 5-8) away.
The victory assured Bucknell of the top seed for the upcoming Patriot League tournament, which means as long as the Bison keep winning, they will play at Sojka, where they are 11-1 this year and 39-5 over the past three seasons. The Bison close the regular season on Saturday at Navy, and then will host the Midshipmen again in the league quarterfinals on March 6.
"We are all focused on winning the conference tournament and going to the NCAA tournament; we are all aware of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," said BU coach Dave Paulsen. "But they can take a deep breath to reflect on the colors of the rainbow. Winning the regular season is the more impressive feat. It doesn't turn as many heads, but it speaks to consistency over the course of a long season."
The Bison needed a Muscala putback in the final second to beat American in Washington, D.C., last month. Wednesday night was a different story as the Bison led from the start. Muscala, who entered the game 32 points shy of Al Leslie's Bucknell record of 1,973 points, scored on a left-handed hook shot 20 seconds into the game as Bucknell roared out to an 8-1 lead.
Ayers scored seven of Bucknell's first 13 points and his transition 3-pointer from the left wing seven minutes into the game gave him 1,001 career points.
It was an impressive feat for Ayers, who spent the majority of the game chasing American 3-point threat John Schoof through multiple screens. Schoof, who is second in the nation in 3-point percentage, got off just six shots and finished with seven points. His only 3 came when Ayers was on the bench.
"The story was Cam's defense on Schoof," said Paulsen. "For him to go 7-for-9, three assists and no turnovers while chasing Schoof around was a terrific job."
Muscala continued his chase at Leslie in the second half. He scored Bucknell's first four points of the half to push the lead to 11. After American cut the lead to nine with less than eight minutes to play, Bucknell went on a 12-2 run to pull away. Muscala, who was named one of 30 finalists for the Naismith Award on Tuesday, enters Saturday's finale at Navy with 1,962 points, just 11 shy of tying Leslie's mark.