By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
Playing a nine-win Colgate team on its home court, Bucknell did what it was expected to do, building an 11-point halftime lead on the Red Raiders.
But as one of the league leaders in the Patriot League, the Bison have a target on their backs and Colgate was able to cut the Bison deficit to four points several times in the second half.
However, through it all, Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen knew his veteran squad would survive the challenge from the Red Raiders.
“The one thing I do like about this group, we didn’t get rattled. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot, but I don’t think there was a point in the game, even when it got close, that I got worried,” Paulsen said. “I looked at our guys and they had a level of composure and a look on their face that they knew they were going to win.”
Leading by just four with a little over five minutes left in the game, Cameron Ayers hit key 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven as the Bison held on for a 69-61 victory over Colgate.
“I told our guys it wasn’t always artistic and we didn’t play our best, we’re going to have to play better, but we won,” Paulsen said.
Mike Muscala and Ayers combined to score 21 of Bucknell’s final 22 points. Muscala had his 18th double-double of the season, finishing with 27 points and 12 rebounds. The senior became only second player in Patriot League history on Wednesday night to have 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, joining former Colgate standout and NBA player Adonal Foyle. He’s also only the second Bison to accomplish that feat, joining Hal Danzig (1956-59).
It was kind of a strange game for Muscala as he had no points and one rebound at the eight-minute mark of the first half.
“I’m trying to be aggressive every time out there,” Muscala said. “We have great shooters and penetrators; I just try to do my job, which is to be aggressive.”
Bucknell (21-4 overall, 8-1 PL) led by 11 early in the second half, when Colgate junior forward Murphy Burnatowski began to heat up. The forward, who is the second-leading scorer in the Patriot League behind Muscala, scored 19 of his team-high 23 points.
“He’s stronger than he looks. He’s very crafty. If you give him a little space, he’ll jump over you and shoot it,” Ayers said of Burnatowski. “He has a lot of different aspects to his game that he’s really good at. He’s quick. He’s tough to guard. You have to try to make him hit tough shots all night.”
Colgate would cut the 11-point lead to four after Pat Moore canned a 3-pointer with 13:33 left in the game made it 42-38 Bucknell.
The game became a battle as the Bison were never able to get their lead back to double digits, but luckily the Red Raiders were never able to get it closer than four as either Ayers or Muscala always had the answer for Bucknell.
Ayers was the only other player in double figures for Bucknell as he finished with 13 points, seven boards and five assists.
Mitch Rolls added 12 points for the Red Raiders (9-17, 3-6).