Bison win to solidify first in Patriot League

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By Greg Stevenson

Senior Writer

With first place in the Patriot League standings on the line at Sojka Pavilion on Wednesday night, the Bison men’s basketball team outlasted the American Eagles and came out on top, 66-60, in a clash between the conference’s two top squads.

“We have been preparing to face a good American team this week,” Darryl Shazier ’11 said. “They have a great individual player in Vlad Moldoveanu, which was a focus for us in practice.”

Despite being one of the nation’s leaders in scoring, with an average of 20 points per game, Moldoveanu was limited to just nine points, thanks to tight defense by Bryan Cohen ’12, who locked down on Moldoveanu for the entire game before fouling out in the final seconds. In 23 games this season, Moldoveanu has scored in single digits just three times, twice against Cohen and the Bison.

Offensively, Mike Muscala ’13 led the way as he has all season, registering 21 points and 10 rebounds, including the first eight for the Bison. Bryson Johnson ’13 and G.W. Boon ’11 off the bench each added double figures, as the Orange and Blue fought off an American squad that would not quit.

Midway through the opening half, the Bison jumped out to a 22-8 advantage and were looking to put their opponent away like they did earlier in the season against the Eagles. But American fought back, chipping away until five minutes remained in the second half, when consecutive free throws by Moldoveanu gave the Eagles a 58-57 lead.

Down for the first time since the first minute of the first half, the Bison ended the contest on a 9-2 run, sealing a huge victory for their shot at the number one seed in the Patriot League Tournament and an automatic spot in either one of the NCAA’s major postseason tournaments.

The win was the 300th of head coach Dave Paulsen’s career.

With just five games remaining in the regular season, the Orange and Blue lead the Eagles by two games in conference and hold the important head-to-head tie-breaker over American. Victories in three of their last five games would give the Bison the conference regular season title, which guarantees a berth in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

The win over American came just four days after the Orange and Blue routed Navy at home, 75-49, rebounding after a 20-point loss at Army the week before. Joe Willman ’13 scored a career-high 18 points as the Bison got ahead 10-0 and never looked back.

“Against Navy, we came out attacking unlike the way we came out against Army,” Shazier said.  “We matched their physicality as well.  We knew that they were a team that liked to push the tempo, so one of our goals was to be in control of the tempo of the game throughout.”

Even with American behind them, the upcoming schedule does not get any easier for the Orange and Blue. The Bison will travel to Worcester, Mass. this Saturday afternoon to take on rival Holy Cross. Although they only have five wins this season, the Crusaders have always proved a difficult match-up for the Bison.

“We are dedicating ourselves, one game at a time, to bringing a Patriot League Championship back to Bucknell,” Muscala said.

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