By: Matt Doherty
With first place in the Patriot League on the line, the Bucknell Bison made their mark as the top team in the league, as they thrashed the Boston University Terriers 86-66 Sunday afternoon at Case Gym.
Bucknell (21-8, 13-3 PL) used a 23-5 run to start the second half to pull away from the Terriers and clinch the Patriot League regular season crown for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Star players Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas were on display as the duo combined for 35 points and 13 rebounds to help pace the Bison to the signature victory.
As for the Terriers (16-12, 11-5 PL), a poor defensive effort and bad-shooting doomed them to the loss in arguably their biggest game of the season to date.
“They obviously outplayed us,” BU coach Joe Jones said. “They were the aggressor, they shot it well, they defended well, they played great.”
Foulland, the 6’9 center, displayed his athleticism all afternoon long with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and season-high 6 blocks. He presented problems offensively for BU with his length while also dominating in the paint on the other end.
“Nana was a big factor,” Jones said. “His ability to change shots at the rim really changed the game.”
BU struggled shooting the ball going just 40% from the field and 25% from behind the arc, a credit to the Bison defense but also to the Terriers sloppiness. On Senior Day, prominent veterans Eric Fanning and Justin Alston combined for just 14 points and 6 rebounds on 5-16 FG in 42 minutes.
Bucknell came out firing in the first half, leading 11 before the Terriers made a run to cut the lead to two. Trailing by 7 at the half, Bucknell completely dominated the second half leading by as many as 26 points.
The Terriers scored just one field goal in the first 13 minutes of the second frame, highlighted by an 11 minute field goal drought.
While the offensive struggles were imminent, Jones was more disappointed with his team’s defensive effort and inability to play up to Bucknell’s level and intensity.
“We have to play at a higher level if we want to challenge them,” Jones said.”I have to have our team more prepared mentally to play in a game of this intensity.”
The loss hurts the Terriers even more than usual, because a victory would have put BU tied with Bucknell for first place in the PL with two games remaining. Now a loss puts the Terriers in second place while Bucknell claims at least a share of the league title.
The game was also the last regular season home of the game season which meant Senior Day festivities for Fanning, Alston, Dylan Haines, and Cameron Curry.
However, the day ended on a sour note when the Terriers weren’t able to get the signature win they needed. Sophomore guard Kyle Foreman led BU in scoring with 16 points while Cedric Hankerson was the only other Terrier in double figures with 10.
Alongside Foulland and Thomas in the scoring column was Kimball Mackenzie (17 points) and Stephen Brown (14 points). Bucknell shot 55% from three-point land.
The Bison need one win in their last two games to win the league outright. BU will go on the road for the final two games of the regular season. First they play at Army on Wednesday before finishing up in Worcester to face Holy Cross on Saturday.
The Terriers have clinched a top four seed and a quarterfinal home-game in the Patriot League Tournament but are only a game ahead of Navy and Lehigh for second place.
Jones’ squad let a golden opportunity slip through their hands Sunday, but now need a solid final week finish to secure the two seed.