Courtesy of GoColgateRaiders.com
HAMILTON – A championship 23 years in the making – no way this one was slipping away.
Colgate completed its scintillating run to the Patriot League championship here Wednesday night with a 94-80 victory over defending champ Bucknell.
One year after losing in the title game at Bucknell, the Raiders turned the tables – this time with a capacity Cotterell Court crowd roaring its approval.
Colgate rode a team season-high 94 points and a career high and Patriot League title-game high 35 points from Jordan Burns to subdue the Bison. Burns was named Patriot League Tournament MVP.
The championship is the first for Colgate since the 1994-95 and 1995-96 Raiders went back-to-back. Those teams also swept the regular season and tournament titles, as Colgate improved to 3-0 all-time in championship games played on Cotterell Court.
The Raiders now streak into the NCAA tournament having won their last 11 games.
Colgate built a hefty first-half lead and then Bucknell made a champions push to try and wrestle its title belt back to Lewisburg.
But Burns and the Colgate defense made the plays when they counted, and Colgate punched its return ticket to one of the nation’s premier sporting events: the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
The Raiders slowly built their advantage but it was Burns who turned on the jets and helped Colgate build a double-digit first-half lead. The San Antonio sharpshooter put together a personal 8-0 run and the Raiders went in front 36-19 with 5:59 left before the break.
Bucknell’s Kimbal Mackenzie scored a 3-point-play to end the first half – a sign of things to come – and the Raiders carried a 43-30 advantage to the locker room.
Mackenzie came out absolutely smoking in the second half, swishing four straight 3-pointers followed by a pair of free throws – 14 consecutive Bison points that had the Bucknell crowd in a frenzy.
The Bison started the second half 6-of-8 from the floor and outscored Colgate 18-7 in the opening four minutes. Two free throws from Mackenzie made it a two-point game 50-48 less than five minutes in.
Colgate’s defense then stepped it up a notch. Three consecutive steals led to buckets, highlighted by Burns’ breakaway layup that pushed the lead back to 56-48 just inside the 14-minute mark.
Bucknell pulled back within 58-54 but then Ivanauskas swished a wing 3-pointer and Burns did the same from the top of the key. Burns again from downtown – this time following a big offensive board – was part of 20-5 Colgate run that increased the Raider lead to 78-59 with 6:52 showing.
Bucknell never got within single digits the rest of the way.
Rayman scored 18 and Ivanauskas 14 for the Raiders. Kudos also to Francisco Amiel, who helped corral Bucknell’s Mackenzie after his firestorm and prevent further damage.
Mackenzie finished with 23 points and Nate Sestina 21 to lead the Bison.
Colgate becomes just the second program in 28 years of Patriot League play to claim both the football and men’s basketball titles in the same season. The Raiders also won men’s soccer for the third straight year.
• Colgate 94, Bucknell 80
• Colgate improved to 24-10 overall with the win.
• Bucknell’s season ends at 21-12.
• The Raiders finish 15-1 at Cotterell Court and are 28-4 at home over the last two years.
FROM THE SOURCE
• Colgate head coach Matt Langel:
“It was everything that a championship game should be. The crowd was fantastic, all of the players in the game competed like crazy. Obviously we’re happy with the lead we got in the first half, and Bucknell made a run.I credit our guys with staying unflappable. We weren’t bothered by the fact that a 13 point lead evaporated in a matter of seconds and we stuck to our plan in playing tough and staying together and taking what the defense gives you.”
• Colgate sophomore, Patriot League Tournament MVP Jordan Burns:
“I attribute this to the guys next to me and the guys in the locker room. They constantly keep my confidence up, especially since I’ve been hurt. It’s hard coming out on the court sometimes knowing you can’t do things you used to be able to do at the beginning of the year. These guys keep me level-headed, they keep me confident and I was able to do what I did tonight with them.”