St. Francis has seen what it hopes it can become in its last two opponents.
Lehigh and Bucknell, the top contenders in the Patriot League, have veteran players who have been through the grind of a college season together for three or four years.
That experience showed Monday night at DeGol Arena as Bucknell beat St. Francis, 76-49, to extend the worst start in the modern era of men’s basketball at St. Francis (0-9).
“We got a veteran group and we have an unselfish group,” Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen said, referring to his starting lineup of three seniors and two juniors. “It was a good effort for us. St. Francis played teams from our league really tough (Lafayette and American). I think it was a good victory.”
Bucknell (10-1) jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, led by five points from 2011 Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala. The Bisons continued to use their solid ball movement to shoot 58 percent from the field in the first half. Bucknell, whose only loss is to Penn State by three points, also used its frontcourt advantage to outrebound the Red Flash by 20 (43-23).
St. Francis stayed within striking distance until the Bison went on a 14-2 run in a 3:26 span in the first half. Bucknell’s Cameron Ayers and Bryson Johnson each hit two 3-pointers during the run.
“Our guys found the open man on the perimeter,” Paulsen said. “That’s the kind of unselfish play we want. I thought the last seven or eight minutes of the first half, we really stepped it up with our defensive intensity and I think that fueled our run.”
St. Francis forward Stephon Mosley was called for his third foul with 8:47 in the first half, when Bucknell started to dominate down low with the 6-foot-11 Muscala and 6-7 Joe Willman.
“He’s been our most consistent post player offensively and defensively,” St. Francis head coach Rob Krimmel said about Mosley.
“We had to put him to the bench with his third foul; that hurt us. When he went to the bench at that point, we had to readjust our game plan.”
The tipping point came late in the first half. St. Francis was called for a foul and assistant coach Eric Taylor was called for a technical foul. Taylor then threw a chair onto the court to get ejected from the game. Bucknell’s Johnson made 3 of 4 free throws to take a 42-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“It’s unacceptable even in the heat of the moment,” Krimmel said.
Bucknell’s hot shooting continued in the second half as it built onto its lead. The Bison’s depth showed as the starters rested for the last 15 minutes of the game. Bucknell is in midst of a tough 4 games in 7 day stretch.
Bucknell ended up with 11 players scoring and four in double figures, led by Ayers’ 13 points. Muscala, averaging 18.7 points per game and 11 rebounds per game finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and led the Bison with 4 assists.
St. Francis’ Earl Brown, his first game back from injury, led the Red Flash with 12 points and 5 rebounds. St. Francis shot 29.6 percent from the field, compared to Bucknell’s 55.1 percent.
“This group needs a win in the worst way just from a mentality standpoint,” Krimmel said. “To get this thing moving, we need to get a win. It’s a big stretch for us.”