HANOVER, N.H. - Mike Muscala registered 18 points and eight rebounds, Joe Willman added 15 points, seven rebounds and a career-high six assists, and Bucknell played terrific defense in the second half in a 67-59 win over Dartmouth on Tuesday night at Leede Arena. Now 10-6 heading into Patriot League play, the Bison trailed for most of the night before taking over with a late 15-0 run.
Cameron Ayers scored 11 points despite foul trouble, and Bryson Johnson counted the go-ahead 3-pointer among his 10 points. Bucknell has 10 wins heading into conference play for the first time ever, and it won its sixth game in a row against Ivy League competition.
After Dartmouth shot 48.1 percent in the first half en route to an eight-point lead, Bucknell held the Big Green to 33.3 percent shooting in the second period. The Bison had five steals and five blocked shots in the second half while forcing numerous contested shots.
Gabas Maldunas led Dartmouth with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he had only five in the second half, with three of them coming on a desperation 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer.
After trailing 37-29 at the half, Bucknell got back in the game with that improved defense in the second half. The Bison held Dartmouth to three field goals in the first 12:29 of the period, and they pulled within two at 47-45 on a reverse layup by Steven Kaspar, who was a key player in the late-game run.
At the 6:34 mark Kaspar fed Willman for a baseline jumper that tied the game at 49. After coming up empty on two chances to take its first lead since the opening minutes of the game, the Bison finally went ahead with 4:49 mark when Willman sent a kick-out pass to Johnson, who swished a left-wing 3-pointer.
Ayers followed with another trey, and then Willman rattled in an elbow jumper. Kapsar came up with a steal at the defensive end and was fouled. He missed both free throws, but Muscala rebounded the second miss and put it back for a 3-point play, capping the 15-0 run and giving Bucknell a 60-49 lead with 2:51 to play.
The Bison scored the first five points of the game before falling into a 10-minute stretch in which they managed just one field goal while committing six turnovers. Dartmouth countered with 12 straight points as part of an 18-3 run, with John Golden's baseline jumper giving the Big Green an 18-8 lead.
Bucknell found some rhythm offensively in the final eight minutes of the half. The Bison hit nine straight shots at one point, including 3-pointers from Johnson and Ben Brackney along with a 3-point play by Muscala. But at the other end the Bison struggled to get stops, and only once were they able to string together consecutive baskets.
Bucknell got a tough break when Ayers picked up his third foul when he bumped into a screener with 2:47 left in the half, and Jvonte Brooks hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to push Dartmouth's lead back to nine at 36-27. After Muscala scored inside, Dartmouth finished the half with a Trotter free throw to make it 37-29 at halftime.
Muscala went 10-for-10 at the foul line and 4-for-7 from the floor, while Willman finished 7-for-10 from the field. As a team, Bucknell shot 50 percent from both the floor and the 3-point arc and 77.8 percent from the foul line.
The Bison finished with a 30-27 rebounding edge and had 18 assists on their 23 field goals.
Bucknell begins Patriot League play this Saturday at Army at 4 p.m.