The Daily Item

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Bucknell had to hold off Fairfield on Tuesday night to earn a win in the season opener for both teams.

The Bison (1-0) built a 15-point lead, but Fairfield cut the deficit to two points before Walter Ellis and Andrew Funk each hit a pair of free throws in the final 13 seconds to help seal a 68-64 win.

“I thought we showed a lot of growth from the two scrimmages,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. “It’s a process. We have a lot of work to do, but that should be the case at this time of year. To go on the road and win a Division I basketball game is a great accomplishment. We showed our versatility tonight, and now we need to get back to work and get ready for a very good Vermont team on Sunday.”

Bucknell got 40 points and 17 rebounds from its bench, led by a career-high 19 points from John Meeks.

Bruce Moore added 15 points, Walter Ellis scored 11, and Kahliel Spear had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Bison.

After the Bison managed only a pair of Moore free throws in the first five minutes of the second half, Ellis keyed a big run by Bucknell, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to put the Bison ahead 43-37.

Later it was a 50-45 game when the Bison scored nine straight points in about 90 seconds. Funk and Meeks each hit 3-pointers in that stretch.

Ellis hit his third triple of the half to give Bucknell its largest lead of 15 points at 62-47, and that was still the margin after Moore’s free throws with 4:27 to go.

Landon Taliaferro’s 3-pointer – one of only two on the night for the Stags – ignited a 13-0 Fairfield run that turned it into a one-possession game. Jesus Cruz scored eight of those points, and his spinning layup with 30 seconds to go made it a 64-62 game.

Fairfield waited until 12.9 seconds remained before fouling Ellis, and he calmly made both ends of a 1-and-1 to push the margin to four. Taj Benning scored on a put-back with four ticks left, but then Funk iced it with two more free throws with 2.2 to go.

Ellis and Funk capped off a strong night at the line for the Bison, who finished 14-for-17. Bucknell shot 40 percent overall from the field but were better from the newly extended 3-point arc. The Bison went 10-of-23 from downtown (.435), with Meeks and Ellis both going 3-for-4.

Meeks’ previous career high was 14 points in last year’s Patriot League Tournament game against Holy Cross, and he matched that total in the first half alone.

BUCKNELL 68, FAIRFIELD 64

BUCKNELL (1-0)

Moore 4-8 7-8 15, Newman 0-4 0-0 0, Funk 2-5 2-2 7, Sotos 2-9 0-0 6, Robertson 0-1 0-0 0, Spear 4-8 1-2 10, Rhodes 0-0 0-0 0, Meeks 7-14 2-3 19, Rice 0-2 0-0 0, Ellis 3-4 2-2 11. Totals 22-55 14-17 68.

FAIRFIELD (0-1)

Senghore-Peterson 0-3 0-2 0, Maidoh 0-1 1-3 1, Taliaferro 5-12 5-6 17, Benning 6-15 0-0 12, Cruz 10-18 4-5 24, Methnani 1-3 2-2 4, Jeanne-Rose 0-1 0-0 0, Eze 2-3 2-2 6, Whipple 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 14-20 64.

Halftime:33-33. 3-Point Goals: Bucknell 10-23 (Meeks 3-4, Ellis 3-4, Sotos 2-4, Spear 1-2, Funk 1-4, Rice 0-1, Moore 0-4), Fairfield 2-12 (Taliaferro 2-7, Maidoh 0-1, Whipple 0-1, Cruz 0-3). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: Bucknell 30 (Spear 9), Fairfield 37 (Benning 7). Assists Bucknell 14 (Sotos 5), Fairfield 9 (Eze, Jeanne-Rose, Taliaferro, Cruz 2). Total Fouls: Bucknell 20, Fairfield 16. A:1,063 (9,000).

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