Lafayette (13-18) at Bucknell (24-8)
Friday, March 11th, 4:45 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sojka Pavilion (4,000) -- Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Lafayette 8-6, Bucknell 13-1. Away Record: Lafayette 5-12, Bucknell 10-6. Neutral Record: Lafayette , Bucknell 1-1. Conference Record: Lafayette 6-8, Bucknell 13-1. Series Record: Lafayette leads, 85-62.
GAME NOTES: The Patriot League Tournament crown and automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament will be on the line in Lewisburg this afternoon, as the Bucknell Bison play host to the Lafayette Leopards from the Sojka Pavilion.
The Bison are exactly where they are supposed to be, as Dave Paulsen's squad dominated league play this year, earning the top overall seed with a 13-1 Patriot League ledger. The team has amassed an impressive 24 victories thus far, and brings a nine-game win streak into this tournament final, thanks to tournament wins over Army (78-51) and Lehigh (66-64). With the wins, Bucknell has improved to 26-18 in this event. The Bison have two tournament titles to their credit, with the last one coming in 2006.
The Leopards are no strangers to this championship round, losing to Lehigh in last year's title game, 74-59. This year's run to the final game was impressive however, as Lafayette moved through the tourney field out of the six-seed with wins over three-seed Holy Cross (77-70) and two-seed American (73-71 in 2OT). The Leopards are 14-18 all-time in this event, and also have two tournament crowns, although the last came in 2000.
The Leopards hold an 85-62 advantage in the all-time series with the Bison, but Bucknell has won three straight, including a pair of wins this season.
The Leopards dropped a lopsided decision to the Bison back on January 19th (75-56), but closed the gap considerably in the second meeting, falling 74-69 in overtime. The team boasts of some offensive firepower, headlined by senior forward Jared Mintz. The 6-9 Mintz is shooting a solid .509 from the field this season and paces the team in both scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). Help comes in the form of Jim Mower (12.4 ppg) and Ryan Willen (10.5 ppg). In the marathon win over American in the semifinals, Mower hit a three- pointer with less than a second remaining in the second overtime to propel the Leopards to victory. Mintz once again led the charge in the win with 18 points. Willen came off the bench with 14, while Tony Johnson finished with 10 points and seven assists. Mower, who was the obvious hero, finished with nine points.
The Bison were the cream of the crop in the Patriot League this season and it showed when it came to All-Conference accolades. Sophomore center Mike Muscala was tabbed the 2011 Patriot League Player of the Year, as well as earning a spot on the First-Team. The 6-11 youngster averaged team-highs of 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Point guard Darryl Shazier (8.5 ppg, 5.7 apg) joined Mascula as a First-Team member. Sophomore guard Bryson Johnson (11.6 ppg) was a Second-Team honoree, while junior Bryan Cohen (7.0 ppg) was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. It wasn't easy in the semifinals against defending tournament champ Lehigh, but the Bison prevailed thanks in part to Muscala's double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Shazier had a strong all-around game with 15 points, six assists and five boards, while Johnson and Joe Willman finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Leopards are clicking right now, but there is little chance they will change their spots against the Bison. Behind the play of Muscala in the middle, expect Bucknell to win the tournament title and earn the spot in the NCAA Tournament's 68-team field.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bucknell 74, Lafayette 62
03/11 10:34:18 ET