WASHINGTON, D.C. - Mike Muscala recorded 26 points and 14 rebounds and Bucknell got hot at the right time in a hard-fought 55-50 win at American on Thursday night. With the victory, the Bison have clinched the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the Patriot League Tournament. Now 21-8 overall and 11-2 in the league, Bucknell snapped a two-game losing streak and prevented American (18-10, 9-4) and Lehigh from moving into a tie for first place.
Bryson Johnson added 11 points, including two critical 3-pointers in the second half, to help the Bison rally from a 10-point first-half deficit. Bucknell struggled shooting the ball for most of the night and finished at 33.3 percent for the game. But the Bison went 5-for-5 from the arc in the second half, including three on as many possessions late in the game to stretch a one-point lead up to 10.
Daniel Munoz led American with 15 points, while Troy Brewer added 13 and Tony Wroblicky 11. Charles Hinkle, the Patriot League's No. 2 scorer at 19.1 points per game, was held to three points on 1-for-9 shooting after another terrific defensive effort by Bryan Cohen. Overall, the Bison held American to 36.5 percent shooting and finished with a 39-36 rebounding edge.
American had its 11-game home winning streak snapped, as the Eagles lost at Bender Arena for the first time this season. The Bison swept the season series from American for the third straight year.
After trailing by as many as 10 in the first half and by two at intermission, Bucknell got the lead back for the first time since 4-2 on a 3-pointer by Bryson Johnson with 13:23 to play. That kicked off a run of six straight baskets that resulted in lead changes over a five-minute span.
Leading 41-40 inside five minutes to play, Bucknell got 3-pointers on consecutive possessions from Cohen, Johnson and Cameron Ayers to open up a 50-40 lead. Steven Kaspar had a key offensive rebound that led to the Johnson trey, which came from about 26 feet after a kick out from Muscala.
Munoz hit a trey from the right corner to make it 50-43 with 2:13 left, and then Muscala was called for a travel in the lane after Bucknell drained the shot clock most of the way down. After Brewer made 1 of 2 at the line, Johnson missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Munoz was fouled on a drive to the basket and made both to make it a 50-46 game.
The Bison got two stops but could only make 1 of 3 from the line. Then Muscala made the play of the game, blocking Blake Jolivette's layup and securing the rebound. Muscala was quickly fouled, and he swished two free throws to make it 53-46 with 15.2 seconds left.
Bucknell's recent shooting struggles continued early on, as the Bison started 2-for-11 from the field. American erased a 4-2 deficit with an 8-0 run, and moments later back-to-back 3-pointers by Brewer and Munoz gave the Eagles a 10-point lead at 18-8.
But the Bison were also strong defensively, holding American to only four field goals and eight points in the final nine minutes of the half. Back-to-back buckets by Muscala capped a 9-2 run to get the Bison back in it, and they trailed by just a pair at 26-24 at the half despite shooting just 31.0 percent.
Bucknell committed only six turnovers in the game and went 12-for-18 from the foul line, with five of the six misses coming in the final 65 seconds. Ben Brackney came off the bench to hit a big second-half trey, and point guards Ryan Hill (6) and Steven Kaspar (4) combined for 10 rebounds.
Muscala recorded his 14th double-double and 11th 20-point game of the season. He finished 9-for-21 from the floor and 8-for-10 from the line, and he also had two assists, two blocks and a steal in 33 minutes.
Bucknell closes out the regular season at home against Navy on Saturday. Tip off is slated for 4 p.m., with Senior Day ceremonies preceding the contest.