March 2, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Bucknell charged out to a 13-2 lead just five minutes into the contest and held off every Navy run to defeat the Midshipmen, 62-46, in men's basketball action on Saturday night in Alumni Hall.
The loss drops Navy to 8-22 overall and the Mids finished the Patriot League regular season with a 2-12 mark. Bucknell, the conference champ, improved to 25-5 overall and 12-2 in the league standings.
The two teams will face each other on Wednesday night in the Patriot League Quarterfinals in Lewisburg, Pa.
"Bucknell is just a very good team and we knew we would have to play our best to win the game tonight, and play even a better game on Wednesday night to win," said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. "They have a lot of pieces to the puzzle and scoring is very easy for them and very difficult for us. Every time we made a play, they would answer with a bigger play. That is what championship teams do."
The Midshipmen trailed 13-2 just five minutes into the game, as the Bison started the contest 6-of-10 from the field. Bucknell would push the lead to 12 at 21-9 on a three-point play by Joe Willman with 8:33 to play, but the Midshipmen would score 10 of the game's next 12 points to trim the margin to 23-19 on a three-pointer by Kevin Alter (So. / Rumson, N.J.) with 4:29 to play.
But Bucknell senior Bryson Johnson would bury his third three-pointer of the first half on the Bison's next possession and Willman would connect on two more free throws for a 28-19 cushion.
Again, Navy cut the lead to four at 28-24, and still trailed 30-24 with possession of the ball right before halftime. Navy turned the ball over with five seconds left and instead of going into the locker rooms down by at most six points, Johnson would bury a 25-foot three-pointer in transition as the clock expired to give Bucknell a 33-24 halftime lead.
"The end of the first half was a killer for us. We were down six with the ball and we don't execute a play, and instead we are down nine. That's the story of our season right there. We just shot ourselves in the foot," said DeChellis.
The Bison then opened the second half with a pair of three-pointers by Cameron Ayers and a Mike Muscala basket to cap off a 13-0 run spanning both halves and a 41-24 lead with 15:56 to play.
Navy would get no closer than 11 (44-33) the rest of the way, in falling to the Bison for the seventh straight time.
"I thought we got some better looks tonight and were a bit more efficient on offense. We need to get some confidence with those shots," said DeChellis. "I didn't think the first five minutes of both halves were very good tonight, but the other 30 minutes were better."
"We'll give the guys off tomorrow, come back to work on Monday, head up there on Tuesday and see if we can play better," said DeChellis.
Navy shot 20-of-55 (.364) from the field, 5-of-16 (.313) from three-point range and were just 1-of-2 (.500) from the free throw line, setting school records for fewest free throws made and attempted in a game. The Mids tied a season low with eight turnovers and were outrebounded, 35-26, after getting outrebounded by the Bison in the first meeting, 47-20.
Bucknell was 23-of-47 (.489) from the field, 8-of-14 (.571) from three-point range and 8-of-10 (.800) from the free throw line. Bucknell was guilty of 12 turnovers, but had 18 assists on its 23 field goals.
Brandon Venturini (So. / Allendale, Mich.) led the Midshipmen with 13 points and five rebounds and was 3-of-6 from three-point range. Worth Smith (So. / Mooresville, N.C.) added 11 points, Kendall Knorr (Fr. / Concord, N.C.) added four points and career highs in rebounds (8) and assists (4). Earl McLaurin (So. / Charlotte, N.C.) came off the bench to dish out a team-best and career-high five assists in just 12 minutes. Donya Jackson (So. / Baltimore, Md.) added eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes off the bench.
Ayers led Bucknell with 14 points, while Johnson had 12 points on 4-of-6 three-point tries. Joe Willman and Mike Muscala combined for 18 points, 17 rebounds and five assists between them.
"Johnson definitely has our number. He has shot very, very well against us in the last two years," said DeChellis. "You just can't leave him any room."
A crowd of 4,833 attended the contest, making it the largest non-Army crowd in facility history, surpassing the previous record of 4,360 in the 1994 Patriot League finals against Colgate. It was the largest regular-season non-Army crowd since drawing 4,218 fans against Wake Forest on Nov. 22, 1999.
Navy and Bucknell will square off in the Patriot League Quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 6, at 7:00 pm in Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, Pa.
# GO NAVY #