Lehigh battles Bucknell for Patriot League crown
Lewisburg, PA (Sports Network) - The top two seeds are set to square off in the Patriot League Tournament Championship Game, as the Bucknell Bison play host to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
At 25-7, Lehigh actually has a better overall record than Bucknell, but it earned the tournament's No. 2 seed by finishing with an 11-3 mark in the Patriot League. It has been rolling along lately, winning seven straight overall, including easy victories in its first two matchups in this tournament (Colgate and American University). With a win tonight, the Mountain Hawks will capture their third tournament championship, the last coming in 2010 when they defeated the Lafayette in the title tilt.
As the defending Patriot League Tournament champs, Bucknell had yet another solid season this year, going 24-8 and earning the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout this event by breezing through the league with a 12-2 record. The Bison had seemed unstoppable, going 10-0 in the league before suffering back-to-back losses in mid-February, but they have since rebounded with four straight wins, including triumphs over Navy and Lafayette earlier in the tournament, both by margins of 24 points or more.
Bucknell holds a 94-63-1 series advantage over Lehigh, and the Bison had won four in a row before a Feb. 16 matchup where the Mountain Hawks hit a last- second three-pointer to claim a 56-53 victory.
Lehigh possesses the Patriot League's most potent offense, ranking first with 76.0 ppg while shooting 44.7 percent from the field, and it continued the offensive onslaught in the 19-point victory over American University in the semifinals. The Warhawks shot a scorching 54.2 percent from the floor, including 10-of-23 from the three-point line, en route to their 10th 80-plus point scoring effort on the campaign. C.J. McCollum had yet another monster performance in the win, tallying 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. McCollum was named the Patriot League Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons after leading the league in scoring (21.7 ppg) and steals (2.6), while also averaging 6.6 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.8 three-pointers per game. Gabe Knutson (11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Holden Greiner (10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) provided ample support for McCollum on offense as well as the glass.
While Lehigh may be the league's highest scoring team, Bucknell holds the top spot in most other categories, including field goal percentage (.466), scoring defense (60.5 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.392), rebounding margin (+6.7), and assists (13.7 apg). The well-rounded attack was put on display in the semifinal game against Lafayette, as the Bison shot 46.6 percent from the floor and a perfect 19-of-19 from the free-throw line, while holding the Leopards to 35.2 percent field goal efficiency. Mike Muscala and Joe Willman both netted 18 points in the win, while Willman also added seven boards, two steals and two blocks. Muscala has arguably been the league's most dominant big man this year, ranking fourth in scoring (16.3 ppg), second in field goal percentage (.503) and blocks (1.6), and first in rebounding (8.8 rpg). Willman chips in 10.8 ppg and 4.9 rpg, and Cameron Ayers adds 10.9 ppg and 45.2 percent three-point shooting to the mix.
03/07 10:35:36 ET