WORCESTER, Massachusetts (Ticker) -- In winning a thriller, Bucknell made the most of a rare trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Chris McNaughton's hook shot with 15 seconds remaining saved 14th-seeded Bucknell from a near collapse and gave the club a shocking 64-63 first-round victory over third-seeded Kansas in the Syracuse Region.
In their first tournament trip since 1989, the Bisons earned their first ever win in the event. In doing so, they handed the Jayhawks, who opened the season ranked No. 1, their first opening-round loss since 1978, ending a string of 21 straight wins to start the tournament.
"I think this was a great college game, and it was an honor coaching it," Bucknell coach Pat Flannery said. "And coaching these kids takes so much pride. We had to play the game in four-minute increments; it was the only way we could get to the finish line."
Before earning the victory, however, Bucknell had to sweat out a tense final minute.
The Bisons led, 62-57, with just over one minute left after Abe Badmus' two free throws, but nearly blew the edge with a series of mishaps.
Kansas guard Michael Lee made a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to three before making a steal on Bucknell's next possession and getting fouled intentionally by Charles Lee.
Michael Lee made both of his free throws, and with the ball still in the Jayhawks' hands, fellow senior Keith Langford soon was fouled. Just a 59-percent foul shooter, Langford calmly made a pair, putting Kansas on top, 63-62, with 30 seconds to go.
Bucknell calmly worked the clock around the perimeter on its ensuing possession before getting the ball into McNaughton on the block. The 6-11 sophomore turned to his left and banked in a righthanded hook shot for the final margin.
"We wanted to go inside," McNaughton said of the decisive possession. "I mean, what do you think in that situation? Make the shot and hope it goes in. It bounced off the backboard and rim and somehow went in. I don't know how, it just did and that's all we needed."
Langford tried to answer on the other end but missed a tough layup. The rebound was corralled by Bucknell but John Griffin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Kansas had one last try with just 2.4 seconds left.
A long inbounds pass found its way to senior star Wayne Simien, who turned and fired a jumper from near the free-throw line. It missed, ending a once-promising season for the Jayhawks (23-7) and keeping alive an improbable one for the Bisons (23-9).
"Once (Simien's shot) bounced off the rim, it was just so exciting," said Bucknell guard Kevin Bettencourt, who led his club with 19 points. "To see how hard we had to work to get to this point. We would not have been satisfied just to be here, we wanted to win."
Charles Lee added 15 and McNaughton finished with 14 for Bucknell, which will face sixth-seeded Wisconsin in the second round here Sunday.
The Bisons never appeared rattled, despite having just one senior on the squad. They led by as many as eight in the first half before falling behind, 31-28, at halftime.
Simien scored the first basket of the second half to give Kansas its largest lead but McNaughton and Bettencourt scored six points apiece to key a 16-7 burst. The surge left Bucknell with a 44-40 lead.
The Bisons resiliency in the face of a series of second-half runs by the Jayhawks was not lost on Kansas coach Bill Self.
"The game never had a lot of rhythm for us and Bucknell played great," Self said. "We knew that their strengths could expose us."
Chris Niesz, the lone Bison senior, was scoreless until late in the game when his leadership and shooting ability provided a spark. Niesz hit a jumper and then a free throw to give his club a 50-48 lead with just over six minutes left and later buried a 3-pointer for a 58-54 advantage with 2:48 to go.
"It gets better every day," Niesz said of his team's ride in his last season. "With the Patriot League championship - that was great, but it doesn't compare to the feeling I just felt out there to know the whole world was watching."
Simien ended his career with 24 points and 10 rebounds but missed his final four shots. Michael Lee, who started in place of a hobbled Langford, scored 18 and grabbed seven boards.
The senior backcourt of Langford and Aaron Miles struggled throughout. Langford, who had missed his previous two games with a sprained ankle and stomach flu, made just 1-of-7 shots and Miles missed all five of his, making their collegiate finales less than memorable.
Despite their struggles, Self was proud of his team's effort.
"Our guys have worked awful hard this season," Self said. "I feel terrible for the seniors, but they should be proud of themselves and hold their heads high."