Patriot League rivals no match for 1st place Bison men’s basketball: Late-run comeback over Lehigh, Orange and Blue rolls over BU Terriers

Kyle Adams, Staff Writer

The Bison put on an offensive showcase in front of Terrier fans as they routed for Patriot League opponent Boston on Jan. 24. The win allowed the men’s basketball team to remain tied atop the Patriot League standings alongside Colgate. Led by Chris Hass 16, the Orange and Blue put up a .561 field goal percentage, .650 three-point percentage and .938 percentage from the charity stripe; all of which were season highs.

Hass racked up 28 points in the game, connecting on his first six attempts from beyond the arc, eventually earning him his third Lids Team Sports Patriot League Player of the Week Award. The Bison also moved two games ahead of Boston in the Patriot League standings with the victory, all while posting an overall record over .500 (11-10) for the first time since opening the season with a thrilling win over Marist at home.

Despite the lopsided final score of 92-77 in favor of the Bison, this game was tightly contested in the opening half, with both teams heading back to the locker room with a close score at 42-40. After the game was tied with two free throws by Justin Alton of Boston U, the Orange and Blue surged by going on an 18-5 run.

This momentum swing was sparked by a Nana Foulland ’18 dunk and continued by two Stephen Brown ’18 threes and a pair of Hass free throws. By this point, the Bison led the Terriers 60-47, and although BU put on several surges throughout the second half, cutting the lead to as little as four points while being led by several long-range buckets by John Papale, ultimately the Bison depth proved too much. One last Bison run, highlighted by a nifty Nana Foulland basket in the paint, put the Orange and Blue up by double digits again, a position they would stay in until the final buzzer.

Point guard Brown had his most impressive outing of the year in only 25 minutes of play, shooting 4-5 from the field, including 2-2 from three and 5-5 at the foul line, totaling 15 points. Brown also had three assists and three rebounds in his time on the court. Coach Paulsen’s squad also saw key contributions from John Azzinaro ’17, J.C. Show ’18, Foulland, and Corey Starkey ’15, each with eight points. Steven Kaspar ’15 kept up his string of productivity with nine points, four assists and two steals off of the bench. Ryan Frazier ’16 also netted five points and played true-to-form defense during crunch time.

The team returned to action on Jan. 28, tipping off at home against in state and in-conference opponent Lehigh University. The two teams came into the contest with similar overall records with the Bison putting their winning record (11-10) and first place standing in the Patriot League (tied with Colgate) on the line against the (10-9) Mountain Hawks. As expected, the two teams played a tight twenty minutes, with Lehigh leading 26-23 at half.

Dave Paulsen’s men stalled to open the second half, with the Mountain Hawks opening the half on a 22-9 run. The Bison found themselves down by 15 points with only eight minutes remaining. To claim victory, and sole possession of first place in the Patriot League Standings, they would need to write a miraculous comeback. One of the so-called “Fantastic Four Freshmen,” Zach Thomas 18, ignited this very charge, playing a key role in bringing the team back in the second half.

In just over one minute of play, Thomas sunk three triples and completed a three-point play after being fouled while converting a lay-up, putting his team up 64-60 in the blink of an eye. The Bison took the lead for the first time since going up 13-11 in the early minutes of the game after Thomas’s first three-point conversion.  

After this inspired run, it came down to sealing the game with free throws, a challenge met by Thomas’s classmate Foulland and the always-reliable Hass. The second half was also marked by strong defense and rebounding with stifling defense, holding Lehigh to nine points in the final 7:48 of regulation. It was only fitting that Thomas held the ball to end the game, pulling down the rebound on an arrant Lehigh three-point attempt with three seconds to go and watching his team celebrate a remarkable 68-62 final score.

While Hass did his job at the free throw stripe, going 4-4, he did have some struggles from the field, shooting 4-12 (1-6 from three) for 13 points. The hero of the night was Thomas, with 19 points and four rebounds, all of which came when desperately needed. Offense was also facilitated well by Brown and Kaspar, each tallying five assists. Kaspar also had two steals.

This was a less impressive offensive effort than Sojka attendees were accustomed to seeing, with their boys shooting a mere .375 from the field, and .654 from the foul line numbers. Timely offense and solid defense down the stretch were enough to seal the victory, extending The Bison’s winning streak to five games, and moving them to 12-10 overall and 7-2 in conference. A Colgate loss allowed for the Bison to move into sole ownership of the top spot in the Patriot League Standings. Dave Paulsen and his men will return to action on Jan. 31 against Colgate at Sojka Pavilion.

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