Courtesy of BucknellBison.com
LEWISBURG, Pa – The Comeback Kids did it again. For the fifth time this season, Bucknell overcame a double-digit deficit to win a game, this time using a strong final 10 minutes to outlast Colgate 84-81 Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Seniors Kimbal Mackenzie (25 points) and Nate Sestina (15 points 9 rebounds) led the way for the Bison, combining to score 13 of the team’s final 15 points down the stretch. Bucknell improved to 8-7 overall and 2-1 in the Patriot League, while Colgate dropped to 9-7, 1-2.
The rematch of the 2018 Patriot League championship game was a tense affair throughout. The Bison appeared to avoid the trend of slow starts that has plagued them at times this season, hitting four of their first six shots en route to a 10-7 lead. But then Colgate point guard Jordan Burns took over the game for the next five minutes. Burns scored four times, including a pair of threes, and assisted on three other buckets as Colgate used a 20-4 run to open up a 27-14 advantage.
Nate Jones hit a 3-pointer followed by a dunk off a feed from Jimmy Sotos to help Bucknell close the half on a 10-4 spurt, trimming the deficit to four at the break at 40-36. The Raiders shot better than 60 percent from the field for much of the first half, but the Bison held them to a 1-for-9 finish to draw closer.
Bruce Moore hit a trey to open the second-half scoring and draw Bucknell within one, but the Bison could not get over the hump for another 10 minutes. Trailing 64-58 after the fifth of Burns’ six 3-pointers on the night — coming after two Bison got their signals crossed on a defensive rebound and the ball fell to Burns all the way out at the arc — Bucknell rattled off nine straight points to take its first lead since it was 10-7.
John Meeks, who gave the Bison a big lift with nine points in 17 minutes off the bench, scored down low to start the run. Avi Toomer followed with a 3-pointer, and then Mackenzie gave Bucknell a 65-64 lead with a pair of free throws. Sotos hit a tough 17-footer to make it 67-64, but Rapolas Ivanauskas rattled home a high-arcing 3-pointer to tie it at 67 with 7:22 to go.
Meeks and Sestina broke ties with layups over the next two minutes, the latter giving the Bison the edge for good at 71-69. Bucknell made only one field goal over the final five minutes but gained some separation at the foul line. The Bison went 11-for-12 at the stripe, including 7-for-8 from Mackenzie, who drew nine fouls in the game and scored 13 of his 25 points at the foul line. Toomer hit two big ones in a 1-and-1 situation with 2:22 remaining, after grabbing a defensive rebound while absorbing the fifth foul on Ivanauskas, who had 20 points in the game.
Mackenzie’s free throws with 25 seconds left upped Bucknell’s lead to a game-high seven at 81-74. It was a six-point game when Burns tossed in his sixth 3-pointer of the night as the buzzer sounded to give him a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists.
Mackenzie’s 25 points marked the second-highest total of his career, behind only the 28 he scored against St. Bonaventure in this year’s season opener. He also had 25 points against Richmond during his sophomore year. Mackenzie’s 13 made free throws and 16 attempts were career highs.
Toomer was Bucknell’s third double-figure scorer with 12 points to go along with three assists and three steals. Sotos finished with nine points, five rebounds and six assists.
Bucknell shot 43.5 percent overall and hit 9 of 24 from long range. Colgate shot 47.0 percent for the game and went 9-for-27 from the 3-point arc. The Raiders piled up a 42-28 rebounding advantage, turning 15 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points. Bucknell made up for the rebounding disparity with a plus-9 turnover margin and a 23-11 edge in points off turnovers. The Bison had 10 steals and forced 18 total turnovers while committing just nine of their own. Bucknell also outscored Colgate 21-10 at the free-throw line.
Bucknell continues its three-game homestand on Saturday against American at noon at Sojka Pavilion. Also taking place on Saturday is the 15thAnnual Dirk Sojka’s Slam Dunk with Bison Basketball. Fans will have a chance to participate in a raffle drawing and silent auction, with all proceeds going to benefit Suncom Industries.