There was no hiding the disappointment of the Bucknell men’s basketball team when it lost to Lehigh on Wednesday night, but the biggest key for the Bison was not to let the loss affect it.
“We only have two options, like coach said in the locker room: Learn from it or let it affect us for the rest of the season,” Bucknell center Mike Muscala said after the Lehigh game. “I think we’ll learn from it.”
Bucknell bounced back with a 65-58 victory over Holy Cross on Saturday as Bryson Johnson went 4-for-4 from the line in the last 40 seconds of a tight game.
The Bison then got a little lucky Sunday when Lafayette did them a huge favor. The Leopards went on the road and dismantled Lehigh, 78-57, in front of the largest crowd at Stabler Arena in two years. Lafayette shot 70 percent (21-of-30) in the second half and put five players in double figures led by Levi Geise’s 17 points.
The Lafayette victory put Bucknell and Lehigh in a tie for first in the Patriot League at 4-1, with the Leopards a game behind at 3-2.
The Bison visit both Lafayette (Feb. 16) and Lehigh (Feb. 18) for consecutive games in the second half.
Lehigh won its first four games of the Patriot League season before Sunday’s loss to Lafayette without preseason player of the year C.J McCollum, who broke his foot in early January.
With an NBA career in his future, McCollum could have taken the opportunity to focus on getting healthy for June’s NBA draft. However, the senior was sitting on the bench Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion cheering on his teammates.
“He is the one person beside coach (Brett) Reed whose voice I hear when I’m on the court,” Geise said. “He is with us in spirit on the floor and he’s like another coach in practice.”
McCollum’s dedication to his teammates showed up Sunday in a bit of an odd way. The Lehigh guard was supposed to have a press conference with the local Allentown media before the team’s noon tip to update the status of his injury.
McCollum cancelled the press conference Saturday morning because, as he said in a statement, he felt uncomfortable deflecting the attention away from his teammates.
McCollum said in the statement that his injury is healing and the therapy is going well, but didn’t give a time table for his return.
When the injury happened, Lehigh and McCollum did state there was a chance he could return late in the season.
The Bucknell women’s basketball team improved to 4-1 in the Patriot League on Saturday afternoon with amazing come-from-behind win over Holy Cross.
The four wins aren’t particularly noteworthy until you consider the Bison won four games all of last season.
First-year coach Aaron Roussell has performed an amazing turnaround in Lewisburg. The Bison now have a shot at the Patriot League title, not bad for a team picked by the league coaches to be tied for seventh in the preseason.
Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion, Bucknell begins a stretch of three games that will go a long way in determining its fate.
Bucknell is in a logjam of teams tied at 4-1 atop the league, and the Bison face the same teams in their next three games. Bucknell hosts American on Wednesday, then travels to Navy on Saturday and faces Navy on Feb. 9.
Roussell has turned things around at Bucknell by making sure his squad has an identity, something it can rely on when times get tough on the court. This Bison squad relies on its defense and rebounding to overcome an offense that struggles at times in the halfcourt.
It’s led to some fun games to watch with Bucknell often racing out to a big lead, letting a team get back in the game, before winning a close one in the end. Then there are games like Saturday’s home win over Holy Cross, when the Bison trailed by 14 points with a little over seven minutes left before rallying to win.
Correspondent Todd Hummel covers college sports for The Daily Item.