LEWISBURG, Pa. - Mike Muscala recorded his 20th double-double of the season while becoming Bucknell's all-time scoring leader, and the top-seeded Bison advanced to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals with a 58-42 victory over eighth-seeded Navy on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Muscala finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds to help Bucknell improve to 26-5 and advance to the semis for the 18th time in 23 seasons in the Patriot League.
All four higher seeds were victorious on Wednesday, meaning Bucknell will host No. 4 Army in the second semifinal game at 4:30 p.m. this Saturday. No. 2 Lafayette will host No. 3 Lehigh at 2 p.m. Both games will air live on CBS Sports Network.
Muscala came into the game needing just two points to equal Al Leslie's 32-year-old Bucknell scoring record of 1,973 points, set from 1977-81. With Leslie in attendance, Muscala tied the record with a pair of free throws 1:04 into the game, and he broke it with another free throw 3:53 into the contest. At the next media timeout, Leslie came down to congratulate Muscala and the two shared an embrace near the Bucknell bench.
Those free throws were part of a 9-for-10 night for Muscala at the line, and the team made 22 of 24. On a night when Bucknell struggled to find its rhythm offensively, the Bison capitalized on offensive rebounding, free throws and a smothering defense.
"I thought we defended very, very well," said head coach Dave Paulsen after the game. "Navy screens and moves the ball and plays very deliberately on offense, which makes them hard to guard. We did a good job staying focused and executing on the defensive end, which is sometimes hard to do when your own shots aren't falling. We got on the offensive glass, kept them off the glass in the second half, and when we weren't shooting the ball particularly well, we got to the foul line and made 22 of 24."
Bucknell limited Navy to 22.2-percent shooting (6-27) in the first half en route to a 26-16 halftime lead, and the Midshipmen (8-23) shot 30.6 percent overall. Bucknell outrebounded Navy 18-8 in the second half and 36-25 for the game, and the Bison turned 11 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.
Navy went scoreless for the final 5:30 of the first half, and in one sequence the Bison forced back-to-back shot-clock violations followed by five straight contested misses.
Bucknell's lead was just nine at 32-23 after a Kendall Knorr 3-pointer with 15:51 left, but the Bison struck back with eight straight points in what became a 12-1 run. A key sequence occurred at the 14:05 mark, when a Navy player was called for a flagrant offensive foul for swinging an elbow. Joe Willman knocked down both free throws, and after the ensuing inbounds, Ryan Hill scored in the lane to make it a four-point possession. Willman followed with a jumper from just inside the arc to make it 40-23 with 12:51 to go.
Bryson Johnson's free throws with 10:58 left put Bucknell up by 20 for the first time, and the lead grew to as much as 23 after Muscala's free throws with 4:29 to play. The newly minted scoring champ left the game to a standing ovation after the free throws.
Navy scored nine straight points to pull with 54-40 inside two minutes to play, but four straight points by Dom Hoffman sealed it for the Bison.
Bucknell shot 38.6 percent and went 2-for-14 from 3-point range. It was a balanced effort for the Bison, who did not have a player take more than seven shots or play more than 31 minutes.
While all eyes were on Muscala breaking Leslie's record, fellow seniors Johnson and Willman also hit significant scoring milestones. Johnson scored seven points, moving him past Mike Butts into 10th place on the Bucknell points list with 1,361. Willman tossed in 10 points and 7 rebounds, and he moved into the top 25 on the scoring chart.
Point guards Steven Kaspar (7) and Hill (5) combined for 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
With its 26 wins, Bucknell is now one shy of the program record. The 2005-06 team won 27 games. The Bison are now 12-1 at home, and they improved to 30-19 all-time in the Patriot League Tournament.
Fifth-year head coach Dave Paulsen earned his 97th win at Bucknell, tying him with Ben Kribbs (1952-62) for fourth on the school's all-time list.
Army defeated American 65-44 at West Point in other quarterfinal action. This will be the second time the Bison and Black Knights have met in the semifinal round. The Bison won 68-47 in 2007.
Bucknell swept Army during the regular season, winning 76-55 at home on Jan. 12 before surviving a last-second miss in a 60-58 victory at West Point on Feb. 9.