Wow, what a game. It was ugly, pretty much all night. But, CJ’s stare, to a stone quiet, Bucknell student section made the roughly 6 hour roundtrip drive all the worthwhile. Man, Bucknell is in the middle of nowhere. It’s like drive to the middle of nowhere, then turn left and drive 20 miles further into the middle of nowhere. But, nice campus and facilities. The crowd exiting the arena was dead quiet, in total shock. It was like walking out of a funeral and it was awesome. My 9 and 6 year old almost jumped out of the building when that 3 went through at the end. What a finish. Lehigh had more of a presence than I expected. I was not in the visitors section behind the bench, so it was not too Lehigh friendly where I was. It was a good crowd, but I was expecting a little more juice in the building. I didn’t see the attendance totals, but it was pretty full. I had visions of a Cameron Indoor Duke atmosphere and it was good, but far short of that energy. Blows away Stabler for atmosphere, of course, but I expected a bit more. Lehigh did a good job of keeping the crowd out of the game and limiting Bucknell runs. I thought when Bucknell pushed the lead to 7 later in the 2nd half, it was over, but what a final closing stretch.
Thoughts on the players. CJ and Muscala, both, were not very good all night. MM missed a fair number of chippies in tight, but he concentrated his work much more on the low block than the game in Bethlehem. I thought he should have taken Manieri and Gabe away from the basket a bit more, because it looked like to me, that he could face up and shoot it, or drive past him to the basket. But, JM battled and was one of the stars of the game for sure. CJ just couldn’t get anything going. Cohen did not guard him as much as he did in Bethlehem, but CJ started very slow. To my chagrin, that ran nothing for him early to get him going. He didn’t get much going in the first 5 or so minutes, and it carried over to the whole game until the end. I was disappointed in the play of HG and GK. They both came up pretty small. I don’t know HG’s health status, but he does not look like the same player as earlier in the season. He has no burst off the dribble, and no ability to elevate like he did earlier. Every time he tried to go to the rim, he went up way too soft. His jump shooting game relies on his ability to beat his defender off the dribble, and he is missing both right now. GK could not establish anything on the low block against any of Bucknell’s bigs. He relies on finesse in the post, and he is too small to bang in there vs Bucknell.
I thought MM was bad in the first half, but much better in the second. Too many turnovers and bad decisions from the point. But, he made some clutch baskets in the second half. CS ran the team better with the second team on the floor, but he looked very shaky shooting the ball. AD and SC are buried at this point behind BB, who played well. He is a solid on the ball defender and he did make a big 3. He was a pleasant surprise. JA was good as well, and hit from 3, and JH had a solid offensive game. My take away from those two is somebody on the team, of those two, is going to have to D up on Willman in the PL final, if they play again. He is a tough cover for those two. He is too big and physical for JH, and seems a little too quick for JA. HG is probably too light in the pants to draw that assignment, as Willman can post you as well. But, he absolutely killed Lehigh last night, inside and out. He was clearly the best player on the floor last night. Bucknell’s problem with Lehigh, is their guards are not quick enough to handle MM and CJ, and probably BB.
On the Bucknell side, obviously Willman was a monster last night. He has a nice shooting stroke, unbelievably flat, but he doesn’t miss when open. Nice player. Cohen was bad last night. As good as he was in Bethlehem, he did not help his team last night. Looked very tentative on the offensive end, and when he shot the ball, you could tell from his body language that he was trying to will it into the basket. Did not look confident with his stroke. Ayers is a very good player. Good shooter, smart player, but CJ on him is a mismatch at the end of the game.
Bryson Johnson again did not impress. He hit one 3 that I recall, but he is limited outside of jacking up 3’s. Nobody will convince me he is a great player. Ryan Hill is an underutilized offensive player for Bucknell. When I saw him break down his defender on the last play of the first half, and hit the bucket that gave Bucknell the 2 point lead at the half, I thought, why doesn’t he do that more?
Last point, on the CJ vs. MM argument as to who is the better player. It is hard to compare them as they are so different. Bucknell people will tell you how great MM is, I am a bit less impressed. He is not a great finisher on the low block. At 6’11”, he should dominate down there. I like him better in the high post, as a pick and pop shooter off the high pick and roll. He has a nice face up game. He is just not thick enough to bang and dominate on the low block. To me, Jerrod Mintz from Lafayette last few years, was a more fierce low post player. I’m not saying Mintz is a better player, but he could command the ball on the low block and finish with a power move. MM doesn’t go up very strong inside for a big guy. Too many baby hooks falling away. He needs to go strong, and draw contact. CJ, we know what he is, as we see him all the time. He is very skilled. He also rebounds well for his size in the PL. We would all like to see him shoot a higher percentage from the floor, but he can be spectacular. The end of the game was very telling last night for the comparison. 30 seconds left, Bucknell ball, MM takes about the worst shot I have ever seen. An ill-advised 3 (hadn’t shot one all night), that does not even draw iron. It almost put a hole in the backboard, it was such a brick. Fortunately, for Bucknell, they get the loose rebound, and get another shot, which again MM takes in the post and misses. Not exactly a clutch final 30 seconds for MM. Then we know what CJ did. Big shot, game winner, hostile gym, etc, etc. That shot made a statement, as did the last 30 seconds of the game.