For The Daily Item
Susquehanna coach Frank Marcinek told anybody who would listen early this basketball season that his Crusaders would be better later in the season.
Midway through January, Marcinek’s team sat 4-11 after dropping three consecutive games on the road in the Landmark Conference.
However, the signs were there for Susquehanna to bounce back. Senior center Harley Sellinger missed the first semester of games studying abroad and needed the early part of January to get back into basketball shape.
Meanwhile, freshman guards Luke Cable, Brandon Hedley and Josh Smith have adjusted to the college game.
That’s paid off in a three-game conference win streak for Susquehanna (9-12 overall, 5-5 LC), finished off by an overtime win Saturday afternoon over the University of Scranton, putting the Crusaders in the final playoff position. Susquehanna trails the Royals and Juniata by one game for second place.
Hedley leads the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game, including a game-high 24 against Scranton on Saturday. Susquehanna has a deadly outside game as four different players — the three freshmen and senior J.T. Wilson — have each made at least 24 three-pointers this season.
Sellinger provides some muscle up front which was missing in his absence. He is averaging 9.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He has 70 total rebounds in his 11 games, already third on the team.
Susquehanna has a chance to keep its hot streak going at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against Landmark Conference leader Catholic (19-2, 9-1) at O.W. Houts Gymnasium.
Joe Diblin wanted to show he had proof.
In case somebody didn’t believe the resident of Riverwoods in Lewisburg, Diblin had a folder with him Saturday night at Sojka Pavilion.
In it was a picture of Diblin from a 1938 edition of The Daily Item and his letterman certificate from 1938, when Diblin was a forward for the Bucknell University men’s basketball team.
“Everybody (from my team) is dead; I had to have proof,” Diblin joked.
Diblin was honored during the first half of Saturday’s night’s game with Navy for being the oldest living Bucknell basketball alumni. He was presented basketball signed by the Bucknell men’s basketball team.
Diblin played three years for the Bison. The beginning of his career predated Davis Gym, in fact. His final season, his junior year, was the first year Davis Gym was in existence.
With 3,716 fans in attendance of Saturday’s night’s game, Diblin said his teams never played in front of a crowd near as big.
Diblin also lettered in baseball, soccer and golf while a Bison. He graduated from Bucknell in 1940.
Bucknell guard Bryson Johnson has made a name for himself shooting the basketball, setting the Bison career 3-point mark Saturday and sitting just two threes away from becoming the all-time leader in the Patriot League.
One of the things coach Dave Paulsen wanted to stress was the improvement in the other areas of his game that Johnson made throughout his career.
“I’ve said a number of times: he’s become our best perimeter defender. He’s doing a much better job with the ball in his hands,” Paulsen said. “There is just a ton that he brings to the table.”
These improvements have also put more of a load on Johnson.
“It’s hard to give the effort that we ask him to bring on the defensive end and then still be a shooter,” Paulsen said. “You have to be in unbelievable shape. It’s been really run to watch the maturation of Bryson.”
Here is a link for those of you who may have missed it. Former New York Times sports reporter Pete Thamel did a feature story in his new job as a si.com writer on Bucknell’s Mike Muscala.
The web link for the story is http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-basketball/news/20130201/mike-muscala-bucknell.
Former Penn State coach Ed DeChillis is in his second year at Navy and it’s been a struggle early on in his tenure.
The Midshipmen are just 7-15 overall this season and 10-41 since DeChillis took over.
Navy biggest problem is its youth. DeChillis started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior against the Bison. The Midshipmen’s roster has 12 players that are either freshman or sophomores, along with three juniors and no seniors.
That’s left Navy with a lot of growing pains this season, especially offensively.
“We have a hard time making open shots. Our last three or four losses have been the same thing, we shoot 30 percent,” DeChillis said. “You have to shoot with confidence. You have to shoot to make shots, not just get rid of (the ball).”
It’s been a vicious cycle for the Midshipmen as their struggles offensively have hampered their 2-3 zone defense.
“When we miss shots, it affects our defense. We think guarding a guy is standing two feet away with a hand up,” DeChillis said. “Attention to detail is lacking because we have such a young team. After the third or fourth (3-pointer), you have to figure out you need to get a little closer to the shooter.”
Don’t get DeChillis wrong, though. He expects to get things to turned around in Annapolis. His young team doesn’t turn over the ball and they execute his offense well.
“They execute; they get open shots,” DeChillis said. “They just don’t make them.”
Six more freshmen enter the program next year. With the experience picked up by his young squad this season, it should pay off next year when a lot of talent graduates from the top teams in the Patriot League.
Correspondent Todd Hummel covers college sports for The Daily Item.