Lehigh wins 2012 Patriot League Men's Basketball Championship - Mar 8, 2012
Lewisburg, Pa.- Lehigh held off numerous Bucknell rallies and hit four foul shots in the final five seconds to knock off the top-seed Bison 82-77 in the Patriot League Men's Basketball Championship on Wednesday at Sojka Pavilion. The Mountain Hawks (26-7) win their third Patriot League title, and second in the past three seasons. They earn the Patriot League's automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, with the brackets announced on Sunday at 6 p.m. on CBS. Lehigh makes the NCAA tourney for the fifth time, and third as a Patriot League member. Bucknell (24-9) falls in its bid to repeat as Patriot League champion. As the League's top seed and regular-season winner, the Bison will receive a berth to the National Invitation Tournament, with the brackets announced on Sunday evening. The Bison will compete in the NIT for the first time, and will be the first Patriot League team in the event since Holy Cross in 2005. The Patriot League's pair of stars were on display with spectacular games. Lehigh junior C.J. McCollum had 29 points, five assists and three steals and was named Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player. Bucknell junior Mike Muscala finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds, coming one point shy of the record for a Patriot League Championship. Muscala made the Patriot League All-Tournament Team along with classmate Joe Willman, Lehigh's Mackey McKnight and Gabe Knutson, and Lafayette's Rob Delaney. Second-seed Lehigh never trailed in the game, but Bucknell came back to tie the score at 50-50 with 13:12 to go. The Mountain Hawks answered with a 9-0 run to take the lead for good, but the Bison never went away. Lehigh was up 78-71 with 45 seconds left before Bucknell's Bryson Johnson canned consecutive three-pointers in a three-second span to bring the Bison within 78-77 with 36 seconds to go. McKnight missed a pair of free throws with 26 seconds to go to give Bucknell the ball with a chance to win. Cameron Ayers missed a layup with eight seconds to go for the Bison, and McCollom grabbed the rebound and made a pair of free throws to put Lehigh ahead 80-77 with four seconds left. Jordan Hamilton stole a full-court inbounds pass by the Bison, and hit two free throws to seal the 82-77 Lehigh victory. The Mountain Hawks opened the game with a 14-6 lead, and soon the trend of Bucknell rallying and Lehigh answering began. The Bison scored seven straight points to get within one, and evened the score for the first time at 15-15. Lehigh came back with six straight to go up 21-15, and later put together an 11-2 run to build its biggest lead of the night at 36-25 with 3:48 to play in the first half. Bucknell battled back to cut its halftime deficit to 41-34, and the margin stayed there until the Bison scored seven in a row to even the game at 50-50 with 12:12 left. That was as close as Bucknell came as Lehigh went on to the 82-77 victory. McCollum was 9-of-17 from the field and 10-of-13 at the line in his 29-point effort, coming two points shy of the record for the League Championship. Knutson produced inside with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and also led the Mountain Hawks with seven rebounds. McKnight added 11 in the game for Lehigh as the All-Tournament trio scored 63 of the team's 82 points. Muscala had 30 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field with a strong 14-of-16 night at the free throw line. Johnson finished with 11 points for the Bison, while Willman added 10. Cameron Ayers scored nine for Bucknell and Steven Kaspar finished with eight. Lehigh shot an even 50 percent from the field at 28-of-56, and made 7-of-15 three-pointers. The Mountain Hawks had 12 assists with 10 turnovers, and finished with 10 steals in the game. Lehigh was 19-of-28 at the foul line, well below average for a team that came into the night second in the nation in free-throw percentage. Bucknell made 23-of-55 field goals, finishing just below 42 percent from the field. The Bison had an outstanding night at the charity stripe by going 25-of-31, and also held a 35-28 rebounding advantage. Bucknell was a solid 6-of-13 from beyond the arc, and had 14 assists with 12 turnovers. Bucknell's bench outscored Lehigh 23-11. Lehigh became the fifth No. 2 seed to win the Patriot League crown, with the other 17 titles all won by the No. 1 seed. The No. 1 seed had won six consecutive Patriot League titles. Bucknell was the last No. 2 to win the Patriot League title, beating top seed Holy Cross 61-57 on the road in 2005. Lehigh joins Bucknell and Navy with three Patriot League titles, trailing only Holy Cross with five. Recaps from each of the schools are included below, along with a box score from the contest.
Courtesy of Patriot League
Patriot League Tournament Final: Lehigh - Bucknell 82-77 Patriot League Tournament Semifinals: Lehigh - American 85-66 Bucknell - Lafayette 79-52
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