The Daily Item
ORLANDO, Fla. — Andrew Funk scored 19 points, and seniors Avi Toomer and Bruce Moore followed with 18 each to lead Bucknell to a 77-70 victory over Seattle on Monday afternoon in the NIT Season Tip-Off at HP Field House.
The Bison rallied from a six-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Redhawks 46-33 in the second half, and they will now face Yale, a 73-51 winner over Western Michigan, in the championship game of the Orlando bracket today at 2 p.m.
Funk scored 17, and Toomer 14 to lead that second-half charge and help the Bison (3-4) snap a three-game losing streak. Two of the issues during that skid were defense and turnovers, and Bucknell was strong in both areas in this one. The Bison committed a season-low six turnovers, and at the other end they held Seattle 38.7 percent shooting and only one second-half 3-pointer in five attempts.
“Our defense early in the second half was huge,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. “We strung together a bunch of stops in a row, and that allowed us to get out in transition and get some open looks. Our turnover problems were contributing to some of our defensive problems because teams were getting easy baskets, but today we guarded much better.”
Jimmy Sotos was Bucknell’s fourth double-figure scorer with 11 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. Moore, Funk and Toomer all grabbed seven boards, as Bucknell finished with a 39-32 edge on the glass.
Terrell Brown paced the Redhawks (2-5) with 29 points on 10-for-22 shooting. Brown scored 20 in the second half as he single-handedly tried to keep his team in the game, but the Bison kept him to just four free throws over the final five minutes.
Trailing 37-31 at the half, Bucknell came out with great energy to start the second stanza. The Bison started the half with six straight stops on the way to a 9-0 run and a 40-37 lead. After missing their first 10 3-point attempts of the day — running their streak to 25 straight misses dating back to the first half of Saturday’s game at Syracuse — Toomer and Funk got treys to drop in that stretch, the latter in transition off an around-the-back pass from Sotos.
The teams swapped points over the next 10 minutes until Seattle pieced together a little 6-1 run to tie the game at 59 on a Brown layup with 4:59 to go.
Bucknell answered as Funk drove along the baseline and dished to Moore in the lane for a layup. At the other end Paul Newman swatted Brown’s driving layup, which led to two free throws for Moore, and the Bison never trailed again.
Seattle cut a five point deficit to two at 66-64 on a Morgan Means 3-pointer, which was Seattle’s only trey of the second half and one of just six in the game. Moore hit one of Bucknell’s biggest shots of the day, elevating in the lane for a six-footer and a 68-64 lead with 2:56 left.
Brown couldn’t get a couple of contested runners to drop, and Funk delivered a dagger with back-to-back driving layups for a 72-64 lead with 1:03 to play.
The Bison struggled a bit at the free-throw line (21-31) but did hit 5 of 8 in the final 51 seconds to help ice the game.
In the first-ever meeting between Bucknell and Seattle, the Bison shot 44.8 percent overall and finished 4-for-19 from the 3-point arc.
Bucknell used an 8-0 run to turn a 9-9 tie into a 17-9 lead eight minutes in. Two straight buckets by Kahliel Spear made the Bison 7-for-10 from the field and forced an early Seattle timeout.
However, the Bison missed 10 of their next 11 shots while the Redhawks went on a 16-2 run to grab a 25-19 lead. Bucknell battle back to tie it at 29 on a pull-up jumper by Toomer, but in the final 2:06 Seattle threw in two 3-pointers off of unsettled possessions, and Brown scored with three seconds left to give the Redhawks a 37-31 lead at intermission.