Sestina, Mackenzie lead first-place Bucknell past Boston University, 82-76

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – Seniors Nate Sestina and Kimbal Mackenzie combined for 45 points, with both players going over 20 for the third game in a row, to lead Bucknell to an 82-76 victory over Boston University on Saturday afternoon at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison maintain sole possession of first place in the Patriot League, improving their record to 10-2 in conference play and 16-8 overall. The Terriers are now 11-14 on the season and 4-8 in league contests.

Sestina came out hot, scoring 11 points – nine coming from beyond the 3-point arc — to help Bucknell to a 27-14 lead in the game’s first nine minutes. However, he picked up his second foul at the 10:39 mark and sat for the rest of the half. The Terriers outscored the Bison 23-9 during this stretch to take a 40-36 lead into the locker room.

Sestina played all 20 minutes in the second half, however, recording 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and his two offensive rebounds and put-backs in the final three minutes were critical.

Mackenzie was held to a pair of free throws in the first half, but he scored 18 in the second half, making six of his eight field goal attempts, including a pair of threes. Bruce Moore also recorded a double-double, notching 10 points and 10 rebounds. John Meeks scored 10 points off the bench, all in the first half, on 4-for-4 shooting.

Javante McCoy scored a team-high 19 points for the Terriers, including five made three-pointers, while Max Mahoney had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

McCoy’s 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second half gave Boston University a seven-point lead, but the Bison quickly tied it on a Sestina 3-pointer – making him 4-for-4 from the arc – a Mackenzie fastbreak layup, and a Moore dunk of a nice feed from Jimmy Sotos (seven assists). 

The lead changed hands three more times before a 17-foot jumper from Sestina and a short bank shot from Mackenzie gave the Bison the lead for good with just under 14 minutes to play.

The Terriers’ 5:20 scoreless drought helped Bucknell stretch the lead up to 59-51, with Nate Jones hitting a big 3-pointer in that stretch. Mahoney got going a bit for Boston University, scoring seven straight points, including a layup that trimmed the margin back to three at 63-60.

A floater from Sotos and back-to-back threes from Avi Toomer and Mackenzie accounted for an 8-0 Bucknell run, and then after clock ticked under two minutes to play, Sestina and Mackenzie converted back-to-back 3-point plays to run the lead to 12 at 79-67.

First, Sestina followed up his own miss with a stick-back while drawing a foul. Moments later, Toomer tracked down a loose ball along the sideline and passed ahead to Mackenzie, who scored through contact in transition. 

Boston University made things interesting, however, as McCoy made three straight 3-pointers during a stretch when Bucknell went 1-for-4 from the foul line, including two missed front ends of 1-and-1s. The last of those treys got the Terriers within 80-76 with 18 seconds left, but Mackenzie iced it with two free throws. 

Bucknell shot 56.7 percent in the second half to finish at 48.3 percent for the game. The Bison went 10-for-27 from 3-point distance and 14-for-18 from the foul line. It was the opposite trend for Boston University, which followed up a 50-percent shooting performance in the first half with a 32.4-percent showing in the second. The Terriers matched the Bison with 10 3-pointers in 26 tries and hit on 12 of 18 from the foul line.

Rebounding was a critical factor for Bucknell. The Bison were outrebounded 37-29 and conceded 20 second-chance points in their 87-80 loss at Boston University earlier in the season. This time, however, Bucknell won the battle of the boards 41-31 and had a 17-14 edge in second-chance points. 

Bucknell had gone all season without two teammates scoring 20 or more points in the same game, but now it has happened in three consecutive games. Mackenzie scored 31 points and Sestina had 22 in a win at Lafayette last Saturday, and then Mackenzie and Sestina went for 24 and 22, respectively, in Wednesday’s victory at Loyola. 

Mackenzie, who now has 11 career 20-point games, surpassed Greg Leggett and Charles Lee to move into 29th place on Bucknell’s all-time scoring list with 1,151 points. 

Sestina went 10-for-15 from the field, 4-for-6 from the arc and made his lone free-throw attempt for his eighth 20-point effort of the season. He is now shooting 60.7 percent from the field during Patriot League play. 

All told, the Bison have won four straight games and nine of their last 10. Bucknell has reached 10 conference wins for the ninth year in a row, and for the 21st time in school history. 

The Bison have also won seven straight home games, and they have won 16 straight against Patriot League foes at home since losing to Boston University on Jan. 2, 2018. 

Bucknell began the day with a one-game lead over Lehigh atop the Patriot League standings. The Mountain Hawks, who are slated to host Navy later in the day on Saturday, visit Sojka Pavilion this Monday night at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

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