FACTS & STATS: Site: Sojka Pavilion (4,000) -- Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Television: CBS Sports Network. Home Record: Army 9-4, Bucknell 12-1. Away Record: Army 6-9, Bucknell 12-4. Neutral Record: Army 1-1, Bucknell 2-0. Conference Record: Army 8-6, Bucknell 12-2. Series Record: Bucknell leads, 45-19.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Bucknell Bison will try to return to the Patriot League Tournament Championship as they host the Army Black Knights at Sojka Pavilion in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Bucknell enters the contest having defeated Navy, 58-42, behind 15 points and 13 rebounds from Mike Muscala, the recent recipient of his second Patriot League Player of the Year award and first Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Muscala is the only player nationally averaging at least 18 ppg and 11 rpg, and was one of 30 players nominated for the Naismith Player of the Year Award.
Army routed American at home, 65-44, in the opening round of the conference tournament. Ella Ellis paced the Black Knights with 16 points, while Larry Toomey netted 13 points off the bench.
Bucknell swept Army during the regular season, defeating the Black Knights 76-55 at Sojka Pavilion in the league opener, and 60-58 in West Point on Feb. 9. Muscala registered double-doubles in each game, averaging 16 points and 11.5 rebounds in the two wins. The Bison, who have been terrific defensively all season long, held Army under 40 percent shooting both times.
The Bison finished the regular season as one of the top mid-major programs in the country with a record of 26-5. Muscala led the charge, averaging 18.9 ppg and 11.1 rpg, both tops in the Patriot League. Joining him on the all-league first team is Cameron Ayers, son of former NBA head coach Randy Ayers. Ayers finished 12th in the conference with 12.4 ppg, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field. Bryson Johnson is one of the league's best outside threats and enters the contest as Bucknell's all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He has 69 triples on the year and 319 for his career, good for seventh nationally among current players. His outside shooting opens up for floor for Muscala and Ayers to operate.
Army finished the regular season on a high note, winning five of its final six games including road verdicts at Lafayette, Navy and American. Head Coach Zach Spiker took home Patriot League Coach of the Year honors in his fourth season with the program. Army is led by Ellis, who led the Black Knights with 17.9 ppg and 72 triples this season. Kyle Wilson is another player to keep an eye on. Wilson averaged 12.7 ppg this season, including a stretch of nine straight games during conference play in which he scored in double figures. Army is second in the conference with 72.5 ppg.
Bucknell has made the tournament final each of the past two seasons and is looking to reach the championship for the 10th time in program history, while Army is hoping for its first trip to the Patriot League final. The winner will face the victor in the Lehigh/Lafayette matchup.
That will likely be the hometown Bison.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bucknell 68, Army 59
03/09 10:37:53 ET
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