Wow, what a game. I felt calm going into the game, and was calm throughout most of the game, but the end was tough to watch. It pretty much went the way I thought it would until the final minute. I was shocked that Bucknell let Lehigh play at that tempo. I was screaming when MM lost Johnson on the inbounds play late and hit the 3 to get to 1 point. He chased the ball, and lost his man, then ran into a lot of traffic, and it was too late. At that point, the calmness left me, and I thought Lehigh was going to throw it away. I couldn’t stand being there to watch Bucknell students storm the court. So, I actually left my seat, and had to start pacing a bit in the back of the Lehigh section. I figured if they threw in a late shot, I could run quicker to the exits and miss a Bucknell celebration. Only downside is it kept me off the court for the ending celebration. But, it was great to watch it. The shear joy of the Lehigh players on Bucknell’s court, and the devastated looks on the face of the Bucknell students. That was priceless. I couldn’t be still over that last 30 or so seconds. I actually thought Lehigh was done when Bucknell got the ball down 1. But, MM did a nice job of doubling Muscala in the post, which forced Ayers to take it to the basket. I didn’t really even see what happened it was so nuts, but I was told later that Gabe got a piece, and then Lehigh got the run out. I had little confidence in MM at the foul line earlier, but I knew CJ would not miss that last ones. It was a hell of a game, and great energy in the building. CJ was unbelievable, as was Gabe. That was probably the best game Lehigh could play. They really brought their A game, and looked really solid on the court and in the huddle.
Thoughts on the play by play. First and foremost, CJ is ridiculous. Every time Lehigh needed a big shot, he stepped up. For the first time in his career, he abused Cohen. Plus, he made some big blocks and steals and rebounds, and he ran the point efficiently. Just a spectacular show. Gabe was awesome early, particularly in the first half. He posted with ease, and showed a tremendous drop step on the low block. But, I thought he tired later in the game, and Lehigh went to him too much in the second half. By then Muscala’s length was becoming a factor. He did hit that big 3 in the second half, though. But, he carried them for a stretch. Other Lehigh thoughts were that MM played a strong game overall. But, he struggled on the defensive end with Kaspar, the back up PG. He had his way with MM, which was troublesome. HG was no factor. He missed 2 early 3’s, then was done for the night. So, he is not quite back yet. JH played well, I thought, nothing fancy, but solid. BB was very good. The 3’s were huge and his perimeter D was good. He looked a bit tentative with the ball in his hands, especially late. I think he could have taken his man off the dribble many times, but chose to give it up. With confidence and more PT, you will see that part of his game develop. JM added some quality minutes on Muscala, but to me he looked a bit panicked on that stage. Same could be said for CS. He was not ready for that stage. Turnover city. I was screaming for Read to get him out of the game. JA could have definitely been a goat for his antics at the worst time of the game. It looked like Lehigh could stretch the lead to 15-20 by the half, but his technical killed the momentum, and then Bucknell had a million free throws late in the half. To me the biggest stretch for Lehigh was when Bucknell tied it at 50. The building was really fired up for Bison, then Lehigh went on a nice, I think, 8-9 point run, and the air left the building and didn’t come back until the 3’s at the end. It was an incredibly mature Lehigh performance.
On the Bucknell side, to be fair, Muscala was huge. I have been critical of him. He did dominate last night, and was great. My thoughts on him go both ways. To compare his talent to CJ is crazy. CJ has a game, with which Muscala is unfamiliar. Muscala dominates due to shear size in the post. Against guys his size, I think a lot of his shots are Spalding burger city. But, he did own Gabe and JM, particularly late. However, a 6’9″ Gabe, ate him up at times, particularly early. So, even though he got 30, Gabe got 23, so that was not a bad trade for Lehigh. Bucknell’s problem was he had no help. Ayers came up small, as did Cohen, as did Johnson (until final minute), as did Willman (particularly in second half). When your second best player is your backup PG, that is trouble. Lehigh D was very solid on the perimeter.
I lost track, but I guess Bucknell was out of timeouts at the end since they had to foul to get it close, and that really hurt them. On that final set when they were down one, they looked unsure. Muscala had to get the ball. And, they way the night was going, I’m sure he would have been fouled. But, Ayers couldn’t feed the post, and they had no second option. That was the critical factor in the game.
Wow, I have twice been to Bucknell in my life, and have probably seen two of the best basketball games of my life there in the last month. The drive sucks, but satisfying on the way home. Final note, I hate the Sojka Psychos. To me, they are a lot of geeks, who need to get girlfriends. The guys in the underpants, really? But walking out of Sojka, a lot of older Bucknell alums congratulated me in my Lehigh sweatshirt. They all acknowledged that Lehigh played a hell of a game. That was nice.
I am hoping for Pittsburgh or Greensboro. I think those are the spots. Those trips are sowewhat manageable, and I plan on being there. I was there for Temple, Georgetown was before my time, and I was there for Kansas. I did miss the play-in game in ’04.