"Genius is eternal patience." - Michelangelo
Game #9-282: Army Black Knights at Bucknell BisonJanuary 12, 2013 7:00 pm
LEWISBURG, Pa. - It's not exactly Murray, Ky
., but Lewisburg does not rank among the top metropolitan areas in America. Or the Northeast. Or Pennsylvania.
In a previous life, I's be much more inclined to get off the exit for Interstate 80 and go north to Williamsport, Mecca of Little League baseball
, but sportz sadly ruined it for me a few years back.
Lewisburg is an hour from the state capital of Harrisburg, but even that's not terribly direct. But Bucknell University has been around since the mid-19th century, and has built itself into a top liberal arts school.
It also might be the place to be in the mid-major basketball world in 2012-13. We don't like to put lofty expectations on teams in Our Game, and with good reason. Bucknell is not Gonzaga, Butler, or even VCU, but if you're looking for a squad that's going to be a low seed, but has a shot to do some damage, Bucknell might be it.
And so here I was on a foggy Saturday night making the left turn onto campus 45 minutes before tipoff of Bucknell's Patriot League opener with Army. I immediately got an old-school feel as there seemed to be family after family trying to cross the road to get to Sojka Pavilion. Once inside, I saw coat racks, several of them. I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure those jackets would still be there late in the second half at some of the places I go to.
The food was relatively cheap, and when I saw my row was just about filled, I moved down, telling the woman next
to my seat, "I'm just going to try to eat down here, but I think my seat is there."
"It will fill quickly down there, too, don't worry."
Five minutes later, I was finishing my chicken and fries next to her, the section just about filled to capacity with 15 minutes still on the warm-up clock. Not quite what I was used to in the NEC.
Sojka Pavilion is a decade old and has a capacity of 4,000, a quite perfect number for mid-major basketball. It got my stamp of approval, although - truth be told - I was rooting for the visitors on this evening, hoping that Army could somehow: a) make the game interesting; and then b) maybe pull an historic upset that could propel it into the Patriot League race.
Sure enough, early on, Army coach Zack Spiker's plan looked brilliant. The Black Knights use an army (pun alert) of players, and like to pressure and harass teams, something that hasn't really worked as a strategy in the last
couple of decades in college
basketball, but Army led 11-4 seven minutes into the game, and had essentially taken Bucknell's star center - Mike Muscala - out of the contest by keeping the tempo on high. At one point, Army had made 16 substitutions, while Bucknell had made only two.
It was 17-12 at the midway point, and the fans were getting slightly restless, but they were a patient bunch. Army's other gameplan was to double and triple Muscala every time he touched the ball, but the veteran was smart enough to pass out of them. And you may not know their names, but the Bison have some other players as well. Joe Willman, Cameron Ayers, and Bryson Johnson all hit jumpers. Adding to Army's troubles was that they were in the bonus, and those double teams couldn't stop them from fouling Muscala, who doesn't miss much from there, either.
Meanwhile, the Black Knights couldn't hit shots to set up their pressure on the other end and Bucknell rewarded their fans' tolerance with a 36-24 halftime lead.
Before the first media time out of the second half, the Bison were running rampant, it was 51-30 and the competitive portion of the contest was done, unfortunately for Army coach Zach Spiker.
I've seen Spiker a few times and this was far more animated than I had ever seen him, which struck me as strange. I know he had an early lead, but he really - if he was being completely honest with himself - have thought Army was going to come in here an win, could he? I mean, I guess you have to think that way as a coach, but it would have been a monumental upset. There were also a couple of calls that were a bit questionable, but that's life on the road, right? Especially when the other team sells their building out regularly.
Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen doesn't exactly fit the mold of big-time college basketball coach, he almost looks like a science teacher that doubles as a high school coach or something. You like how I judge people strictly by appearance? Paulsen didn't have the type of resume that would have gotten hired at some other places, although he did win a Division III national championship at Williams and returned to the title game the year after. But he hadn't been with a Division I program since 1994 when he took over the reigns in 2008 from legend Pat Flannery.
Of course, Flannery didn't exactly fit the mold we're used to, either. He was at his alma-mater Bucknell for 15 years (after winning a Division II title like Paulsen). When Bucknell won an NCAA Tournament game in 2005 and 2006, Flannery stayed. Stayed? You're supposed to go chase the money, man, go to the big time.
These small-town people just don't get it, do they?
After the 2007-08 season, Flannery retired to help fundraise for the school
. Retire? Anyway, remember that patience I talked about earlier? Paulsen went only 7-23 in his first season and 14-17 in his second, but Bucknell didn't waver. The next season, 2010-11, Bucknell was back in the tournament and would have been last season as well if it weren't for C.J. McCollum and Lehigh.
It went unnoticed by many, but after Bucknell was upset by Lehigh, they did pull a Red Line Upset over Arizona in the first round of the NIT, though.
Paulsen's subbed plenty in the second half, and Army made a bit of a run behind its best player, senior Ella Ellis, who moved into 12th on the all-time Army scoring list in this game. A Kyle Toth #superhoop
made it 59-45 with 9:41 left, but - led by Muscala at both ends - the Bison scored the next nine points to really put the game away, even though it probably was already.
Many of the fans hung around after the game to walk around on the court and just to talk to their fellow neighbors (I remember talking to a neighbor once), it seemed like the gym was still half-full 15 minutes after the final buzzer.
Senior Bryson Johnson was the Bucknell radio guest, and he was slowly surrounded by kids looking for autographs, just waiting for him to take the headset off to pounce. When the moment finally came, he was all smiles.
I was impressed by Johnson during the game as well, on one play where he lost his man, he immediately took responsibility, apologizing to Paulsen on the way out of the game. In the second half when Army got an easy look on an inbound play, Paulsen started yelling at fellow senior Brian Fitzpatrick until Johnson raised his hand and said, "It was me, coach! My bad. I told him to switch."
I'm not always sure what to make of Nova Scotians with dreadlocks, but Johnson surely gave them a good name Saturday,
And so, it was back out into the Lewisburg night, where the fog made it tough to make my way out and find where I had parked. With a severe lack of cutting people off or driving at dangerous speeds to get off the campus 30 seconds faster, traffic flowed pretty quickly and I was back on Interstate 80 in a matter of minutes.
a virtue. I'll be damned.
at BUCKNELL 76, ARMY 55
ARMY 7-9 (0-1) -- E. Ellis 6-9 3-3 17; K. Toth 3-8 0-0 8; K. Wilson 1-7 1-2 3; D. Cox 2-5 1-2 6; A. Stire 2-3 0-0 4; L. Toomey 4-9 0-0 10; M. Lenox 0-4 2-2 2; T. Plomb 2-5 1-2 5; K. Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0; K. Weldon 0-0 0-0 0; M. Gramling 0-3 0-0 0; M. Williams 0-0 0-0 0; C. Kincade 0-0 0-0 0; T. Rollo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 8-11 55.
BUCKNELL 14-3 (1-0) -- B. Johnson 2-6 0-0 5; M. Muscala 5-11 10-10 20; J. Willman 8-12 2-3 18; C. Ayers 6-10 0-0 15; R. Frazier 1-3 0-0 3; S. Kaspar 2-2 0-0 5; R. Hill 1-1 0-0 2; B. Fitzpatrick 0-3 2-3 2; D. Hoffman 0-3 0-0 0; J. Singleton 1-2 0-0 2; C. Hass 1-3 0-0 2; B. Brackney 0-1 0-0 0; C. Starkey 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-58 14-16 76.
Three-point goals: ARMY 7-19 (E. Ellis 2-2; M. Lenox 0-3; D. Cox 1-3; M. Gramling 0-2; T. Plomb 0-3; L. Toomey 2-2; K. Toth 2-4), BUCK 6-14 (B. Johnson 1-5; C. Ayers 3-3; S. Kaspar 1-1; J. Singleton 0-1; R. Frazier 1-3; C. Hass 0-1); Rebounds: ARMY 24 (D. Cox 6), BUCK 33 (M. Muscula 13); Assists: ARMY 12 (E. Ellis 2), BUCK 19 (M. Muscula 7); Total Fouls -- ARMY 16, BUCK 17; Fouled Out: ARMY-K. Ferguson; BUCK-None.