Bucknell wreaking havoc again -- to no one's surprise
Posted: Friday March 17, 2006 9:31PM; Updated: Friday March 17, 2006 11:10PM
Celebrating an NCAA tournament victory is becoming old hat for Bucknell.
DALLAS -- Is there anyone out there who still doubts Bucknell? The team that stunned Kansas last year, has every starter back from that team and won at Syracuse this season when the Orange still had some pulp just took out another supposedly more athletic team from a big, bad major conference. This time it was SEC member Arkansas and its hog-calling fans, who essentially turned American Airlines Center into Bud Walton South, not that the Bison actually noticed.
Though the final score was just 59-55, the boys from the Patriot League were in control from the outset. They kept the tempo at their deliberate pace and cut up the Razorbacks' defense, running Charles Lee, Kevin Bettencourt and other shooters off endless screens until they found open 3-pointers. And they did, hitting 11-of-21 from beyond the arc, which helped them build a 10-point lead early in the second half.
The Razorbacks eventually got back into the game by pushing the ball, and with 1:15 remaining the game was tied at 55-55. But that just made the ending more dramatic. Facing Arkansas' full-court pressure, Bucknell passed the ball around (and too long, according to Razorbacks coach Stan Heath, who thought there was a 10-second violation on the play) until forward Donald Brown found Lee under the bucket for a wide-open layup, which proved to be the game-winner. Lee finished with 24 points, including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers, and five rebounds.
And now the Bison have another second-round date in the NCAA tournament, this time with top-seeded Memphis. "This [win] solidified last season and showed that last year was not a big fluke as some thought it was," Bettencourt said.
Player Who Impressed Me
Lee, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, played like the Patriot League Player of the Year on both ends. In the first 3½ minutes, Lee hit a 15-foot jumper, converted a putback and drew a charge. When he wasn't scoring, Lee usually had the defensive assignment on Arkansas' versatile Ronnie Brewer, whose 14 points were almost five under his season average.
And, of course, with the game on the line, Lee made the winning shot.
The Bison remained at American Airlines Arena to watch their second-round opponent, Memphis, beat Oral Roberts 94-78. The team left with 5:50 remaining and the Tigers ahead 86-70. ... Bucknell center Chris McNaughton's good-luck charm? A stuffed rabbit, which he takes with him to all road games. The rabbit was a Valentine's Day gift from his girlfriend, fellow Bucknell student Ashley Glasgow, last year... According to a Big 12 representative, a Mavericks staff member spent Friday searching for tickets to the sold-out event for injured Rockets guard Tracy McGrady.
Unlike after last year's first-round victory over Kansas, no one will dub Bucknell Cinderella after beating Arkansas because the Bison have proved this season that they can play with anyone. Their offensive execution is precise, and, after playing a demanding schedule, they're tested and are not intimidated by any team, including their next opponent, Memphis. To beat the Tigers, Bucknell will need to limit turnovers against Memphis' frenzied press and then find holes against a unit that ranked third in the country in field goal percentage defense (37.8 percent entering the tournament). Can the Bison pull off the upset? Tigers coach John Calipari thinks so. "Believe me," Calipari said about Sunday's matchup. "I'm scared to death about this one."