Lewisburg, PA (Sports Network) - Kevin Bettencourt scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Bucknell Bison over the Holy Cross Crusaders, 74-59, at Sojka Pavilion for their second straight Patriot League Tournament title.
Bettencourt hit 6-of-10 shots from three-point range and sparked a couple of key runs as the top-seeded Bison (26-4) secured a trip to the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in the program's history. Last year, the Bison advanced to the second round of the tournament as a 14 seed.
Charles Lee had 16 points and nine rebounds and Chris McNaughton had 14 points for Bucknell, which didn't lose a Patriot League game all season.
Kevin Hamilton had 20 points and seven rebounds for Holy Cross (20-12), which also fell to Bucknell in last year's tournament final. Keith Simmons added 19 points for the Crusaders, who faltered in the second half.
With the game tied at 34-34 late in the first half, Bucknell scored eight of the final 12 points of the stanza to take the lead for good. Bettencourt sparked the surge, hitting a pair of three-pointers. His first gave the Bison the lead 37-34 and his second came at the buzzer for a 42-38 halftime edge.
"The first half was tough," said Bettencourt. "There were so many fouls called, it was tough to get into a rhythm. Obviously it's good to go into halftime ahead. Charles made a great play. He drove and I just found an open spot and knocked it down. It gave us good momentum."
Holy Cross cut the deficit to 45-42 just over three minutes into the second half, but McNaughton jump started a 15-2 run that put Bucknell in control. McNaughton scored the first four points and Bettencourt had five points during the run, which was capped by a pair of Bettencourt free throws with 7:53 left for a 60-44 cushion.
"At the start of the second half, defensively, we were able to adjust to some of the things they did in the first half but I knew they would never go away and just tried to keep our kids focused," said Bucknell head coach Pat Flannery.
The Crusaders, who are unlikely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, hit just three of their first 11 baskets of the second half and never recovered.
"We went out and made some freshman mistakes on defense," said Holy Cross head coach Ralph Williard. "Bucknell is a smart enough team to take advantage of them. It's tough to expect so much out of young guys, and they just had lapses that allowed threes for Charles (Lee) and Kevin (Bettencourt)."
Bucknell heads into the tournament on a five-game winning streak.
Bucknell's championship game last year came at Holy Cross...Bucknell has won four straight against the Crusaders...Holy Cross had a six-game win streak halted.
03/10 21:23:27 ET