LEWISBURG, Pa. - Mike Muscala recorded another double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Bryson Johnson scored 13 big second-half points, and Bryan Cohen logged his 1,000th career point in addition to his usual stellar defense, helping Bucknell to a 68-61 victory over second-place American and a two-game lead in the Patriot League standings. Now 16-6 on the season and 6-0 in the conference, the Bison won their eighth straight game overall and their 16th in a row against Patriot League foes.
American (13-8, 4-2) could have moved into a first-place tie with Bucknell with a victory, and the Eagles were looking good early after building a seven-point lead. The Bison played nearly six minutes without Muscala, who needed stitches to repair a gash to the chin suffered on a hard fall to the floor.
Shortly after Muscala returned, Daniel Munoz hit a 3-pointer and a free throw to give American a 21-14 lead, but then Muscala took over in the late stages of the first half. Three times he scored on low-post maneuvers, and he also assisted on a Joe Willman jumper. Muscala's shot in the lane with 1:05 left in the half gave the Bison the lead for good, and Cohen's layup with 29 seconds left made it a 14-4 run to end the half and put the Bison up 28-25 at intermission.
Bucknell then took control in the first 10 minutes of the second half, outscoring American 21-9 to grab a 15-point lead. Muscala scored Bucknell's first six points of the half, and Johnson stretched a six-point lead up to nine with his first 3-pointer of the night. Steven Kaspar's driving layup pushed the advantage into double-digits for the first time, and at the 10:41 mark Johnson canned another trey to make it 49-34.
American crawled back within eight at 53-45 on a Munoz 3-pointer with 5:45 to play, but then Johnson hit what was probably the shot of the night for the Bison. Bucknell had gone more than five minutes without a field goal, and with the shot clock winding down inside five seconds, Johnson hit a step-back 3-pointer to lift the lead back up to 11.
Thanks to some missed free throws by the Bison and some long-range jumpers by the Eagles, things got interesting in the final minute. American pulled as close as four at 65-61 after a Charles Hinkle 3-pointer with 14.7 seconds left, but Cameron Ayers was fouled on the inbounds, and he iced it with two free throws with 13.1 left.
Munoz scored a career-high 16 for American, while Hinkle scored all 12 of his points in the second half. Hinkle, who had to contend with two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Cohen for much of the night, came into the game ranked second in the Patriot League and 18th nationally scoring 19.7 points per game. The Eagles' No. 2 scorer, Troy Brewer (13.4 ppg), was held to two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
Muscala finished the night 8-for-12 from the floor, and his double-double was his 11th of the season and third in a row.
Cohen, who entered the game needing just three points for 1,000, finished with seven points, three rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal. Fittingly, his diving steal in the game's opening minutes led to his own 3-pointer at the other end, making him the 35th player in program history to reach the century mark.
Willman also hit double figures with 11 points in the game. Bucknell shot 51.1 percent from the field, including a 5-for-11 tally from 3-point range. The Bison went 16-for-23 from the foul line.
At 6-0 in the Patriot League, Bucknell now has a two-game lead over both American and Lafayette. Lehigh can also get to 4-2 with a win at home against Navy on Thursday.
Now 9-1 at home this season, Bucknell closes out the first round of Patriot League play on Saturday night at Navy. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall.