By: Greg Levinsky
Sojka Pavillion, Bucknell’s 4,000 seat basketball arena, is not the friendliest to visitors.
Lately, it’s been nearly impossible to defeat the Bison on their home floor.
Bucknell has only one loss at home this season, an 84-79 shocker to the Boston University Terriers on Jan. 2, which, at the time, ended what was once the nation’s seventh longest home winning streak.
On Jan. 28, Bucknell returned the favor, defeating BU at Case Gym. The loss marked the first in a stretch where the Terriers dropped six of seven, including five in a row.
Without senior guard Cedric Hankerson, who at the time was the Terriers’ leading scorer, the disadvantaged Terriers struggled against the reigning conference champions.
“We got robbed of time together because we went through so much right in the middle of the conference season,” Boston University men’s basketball head coach Joe Jones said. “So we didn’t get a chance to do some things that over teams do when they’re healthy like that.”
Now with his team healthy for the last three contests – all victories and the first of which snapped the aforementioned skid – Jones and the fifth-seeded Terriers (15-15, 10-8 Patriot League) have a chance to knock off the first-seeded Bison (23-9, 16-2 PL) on the road on Sunday afternoon.
“It was just such a big difference having Ced [Hankerson] healthy with two or three games back under his belt and just having Walter Whyte on the floor,” Jones said of his team’s recent success. “We’ve been able to do things that we haven’t been able to do right away. We gained confidence right there.”
Sophomore forward and third-team All-Patriot League honoree Max Mahoney paces the Terriers at 13.2 points per game and comes off a 27 point outburst in BU’s quarterfinal victory at Lehigh. Hankerson carries a 13.1 points per game average and sophomore Tyler Scanlon is at 10.3 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game.
Patriot League Player of the Year Zach Thomas leads a star-studded Bison senior trio. The forward, along guard Stephen Brown and center Nana Foulland, were all all first-team All-Patriot League selections.
Thomas, who leads the conference at 21.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, is complemented by Foulland (15.6 ppg and 7.0 rpg) and Brown (14.3 ppg and 4.3 apg).
Junior guard Kimbal Mackenzie and sophomore guard Avi Toomer are also projected to start, according to the team’s website. Toomer and freshman Paul Newman will be in uniform after serving a one-game suspension for violation of team rules. Starting sophomore guard Bruce Moore is suspended indefinitely.
“They’re a very good team, don’t get me wrong, you have to give them credit,” Jones said. “The loss was frustrating because I know we’re better than how we played.”