The top-seed Bucknell Bison will try to make up for a letdown in last year's title game when it faces the second-seed Lafayette Leopards for the Patriot League championship at Sojka Pavilion.
Lafayette had a pretty easy time through the first two rounds of the tournament with double-digit victories over seventh-seed Holy Cross (77-54) and third-seed and defending champion Lehigh (82-69). Going back to the regular season the Leopards have won seven-straight games as they go for their first Patriot League title since 2000 when it won back-to-back crowns.
Bucknell took down eight-seed Navy and four-seed Army in its first two rounds of the tournament. Those victories extended the Bison's winning streak to six games after they rolled to 25 wins in the regular season and a 12-2 mark in league action. Bucknell has been in the title game in two straight seasons but lost, 82-77, to Lehigh a year ago.
These teams actually met up in this round of the tournament during the 2010 season when Bucknell earned its third conference crown. During this campaign these teams split their two matchups, while Lafayette owns an 86-67 all-time series lead.
Tony Johnson poured in 24 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists to lead the Jaguars over Lehigh in the second round. Johnson's efforts on the boards helped the Jaguars earn a 35-25 edge in rebounds, while they got 20 points off turnovers and 17 points on second chance opportunities.
Johnson (13.4 ppg, 4.8 apg) is one of three double-figure scorers for the Jaguars and has done so by shooting an impressive 55.7 percent from the field. That is the best field goal percentage among players in the Patriot League as is Johnson's work in creating steals (1.9 pg). Seth Hinrichs (14.7 ppg) and Dan Trist (12.6 ppg) are each able to carry the offense at times with the trio combining for 55 points on 18-of-33 shooting in the win over Lehigh. Hinrichs is also in the top five players in the league in field goal percentage (.538) for the Jaguars who are the second best shooting team in the league (.459).
Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala was at it again in the Bison's second-round victory. Muscala had 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, while blocking three shots to lead the Bison to the title game. Cameron Ayes added 19 points for Bucknell which held Army to just 38 percent shooting.
Muscala (19.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg) has been sensational all season and dominated in the paint. The 6-foot-11 forward now has a NCAA-leading 21 double-doubles this season after leading the Patriot League in points, rebounds and blocks during the regular season. Ayers (12.6 ppg) has been a strong second option as he shoots 47.9 percent from the field, while Bryson Johnson (11.4 ppg) and Joe Willman (10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are also consistent contributors. Bucknell is a very strong defensive squad ranking seventh nationally in opponent field-goal percentage (.377), while ranking among the top 20 in points allowed (59.4 pg).