LEWISBURG, Pa. - In a game of wild momentum swings, it was Lehigh that made the final run and the Mountain Hawks outlasted Bucknell 65-62 Wednesday night before 3,964 fans at Sojka Pavilion. Both teams came in unbeaten in Patriot League play, but Lehigh moved to 14-4 overall and 4-0 in the league, while the Bison fell to 16-4, 3-1, despite 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots from Mike Muscala.
Joe Willman added 15 points and nine rebounds and freshman forward Dom Hoffman had the best game of his young career with 10 points off the bench. B.J. Bailey made all four of his 3-point attempts and scored a game-high 18 points, while Mackey McKnight had 17 points and Holden Greiner 12 for the Mountain Hawks, who became the first visiting team to win three straight games in Sojka Pavilion.
The most glaring difference on the stat sheet came at the 3-point arc, where Lehigh went 10-for-18 and Bucknell 2-for-14. The Bison held the Mountain Hawks to 11-for-41 (.268) shooting inside the arc and 35.6-percent shooting overall. But Lehigh, which came into the game ranked second in the nation in team 3-point percentage (.428), hit some critical long-range shots down the stretch after Bucknell had overcome a big early deficit.
Lehigh drained six 3-pointers in the opening 14 minutes of the game. The last of those came from Corey Schaefer and gave the visitors a stunning 27-12 lead.
But the Bison launched a major flurry of their own and got it back to a one-point game by halftime. Bryson Johnson's four-point play with 5:41 left ignited a 16-2 run over the remainder of the half. Hoffman hit back-to-back jumpers, Muscala had a follow-up jam off a missed layup, and Willman knocked down a pair of shots from the right elbow to make it a 29-28 game at intermission.
Muscala scored inside on the opening possession of the second half, and eventually Bucknell stretched its run to 32-10 to take a seven-point lead. A trey by Cameron Ayers and a driving layup by Ryan Hill made it 44-37 with 12:47 to play.
Lehigh began driving the ball hard to the basket and scored 10 straight points on layups and free throws to go back in front 47-44.
Muscala had to leave the game at the 11:16 mark with a leg cramp, but in the 5:42 that he was out, the Bison outscored Lehigh 12-4 thanks to some terrific play by Hoffman. The rookie, whose previous high was four points, scored on a post move and then completed a 3-point play on a nice cut to the basket and feed from Johnson. A jumper by Ayers gave the Bison a 53-49 lead, and then Hoffman swatted away a shot and made a free throw before leaving to a standing ovation as Muscala returned.
That Hoffman free throw with 6:34 left put Bucknell ahead 56-51, but Lehigh would outscore the Bison 15-6 the rest of the way. Bailey's fourth 3-pointer of the night made it a two-point game and Justin Goldsborough tied it with a layup. The Bison went back ahead on a Muscala jumper in the key, but McKnight's 3-pointer from the right corner put Lehigh up for good with 4:41 left.
Lehigh's lead was 61-59 with just over a minute to play, and the Bison made a good defensive stand to force a tough shot by Greiner. Bucknell went inside to Muscala, but his turnaround jumper rimmed out. After draining the shot clock, Greiner missed another contested shot, but Lehigh was able to tip out the rebound, and Bucknell had to foul McKnight with 19 seconds left.
McKnight made both free throws to push Lehigh's lead to 63-59. Ayers was fouled on a drive and made 1 of 2 at the line. After Goldsborough hit 1 of 2 at the other end, Willman scored on a follow to make it 64-62 with 4.8 seconds left.
Lehigh had trouble inbounding but finally got it in to Greiner, who was fouled with 4.3 ticks left. Greiner left the door open by missing one of his two free throws, but Ayers' 28-footer to tie fell short as time expired.
After starting the game 3-for-16 from the field, Bucknell rallied to shoot 44.8 percent for the game. The Bison finished with a 39-34 rebounding edge, but Lehigh outscored them 13-8 from the foul line. Both teams took good care of the ball, with Lehigh committing four turnovers and Bucknell eight.
Ayers finished with nine points, six rebounds and a career-high eight assists for the Bison. Johnson and Hill scored six points apiece.
Muscala came in to the game tied for the national lead with 13 double-doubles, but his streak of five straight double-doubles and four straight 20-point, 10-rebound games came to an end. Muscala moved past Greg Sprink into sixth place on the Patriot League's all-time scoring list with 1,796 points.
Despite falling to 7-1 at home this season, Bucknell's 16-4 record is tied for third-best in program history after 20 games.
This was a rematch of the 2012 Patriot League championship game, won by Lehigh at Sojka Pavilion. Both teams came in ranked in the top 10 in the College Insider Mid-Major Poll (Bucknell 3, Lehigh 8). The two teams will meet again in Bethlehem on Feb. 18.
Bucknell will be back in action on Saturday at Holy Cross at 4 p.m. in a game that will be televised on CBS Sports Network.