February 11, 2010
By David Driver
For the Daily Item
Used with permission
WASHINGTON -- American's Vlad Moldoveanu got a pass in the lane and was immediately surrounded by Bucknell's Mike Muscala and Bryan Cohen.
So Moldoveanu, his team's top scorer this year, whipped a pass under the basket to one of his teammates. But the ball sailed out of bounds for a turnover as Moldoveanu, who was held to two points, let out a sigh of frustration as he headed to the opposite end of the court in the closing minutes of Thursday's 73-59 loss to Bucknell in the snowy nation's capital.
"Probably the kid had an off night. Those things happen," Dave Paulsen, the Bucknell head coach, said of Moldoveanu. "But we made it hard for him to get in a rhythm. In the second half were able to double team him a lot. We did a good job."
"We really wanted to double team him in the post," Muscala said. "Our game plan worked. We just did a good job in the entire second half."
It was a night of frustration for the two-time league champs as Bucknell began both halves with impressive runs that secured fourth place in the Patriot League standings for the Bison in a game televised by CBS College Sports.
Freshman reserve Joe Willman had 13 of his career-high 15 points in the second half. Freshman starters Muscala and Bryson Johnson each had 14 points and Patrick Behan came off the bench to score 13 for Bucknell. It was the second game in a row that three freshmen scored in double digits for the Bison, who had a few fans behind their bench that braved snow-covered streets for the game at on-campus Bender Arena.
Muscala was on fire to start the game Thursday. He hit his first five shots to give the Bison a 11-0 lead. "I don't know how to describe that," said Muscala, with a grin. "I couldn't miss there in the beginning. It is funny; those are the only points I scored."
"He gave us a huge lift," Paulsen said of Muscala. "He really got hot. We rode him."
With the Eagles focusing on Muscala, Behan came off the bench and scored 10 points in the first half.
"I wanted to give the team some energy," Behan said. "We have a little momentum and we are going to try and keep riding this winning stretch."
Bucknell (10-15 overall, 5-4 in the league) improved to 4-10 on the road this year -- after winning just once away from Sojka Pavilion last year -- and has now won four of its last five games. The Bison took a 39-29 lead early in the second half and AU did not come within 10 points the rest of the way.
Bucknell won even though three starters, Darryl Shazier, Stephen Tyree and Bryan Cohen, did not score in the first half. Muscala and Behan scored 24 of the team's 28 first-half points and Johnson had 12 points in the second half.
Bucknell finally got some offense from someone besides Muscala and Behan to start the second half. Shazier hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bison a 34-25 lead and a free throw by Johnson a few minutes later gave Bucknell a 37-27 advantage.
"Coach always tells me to be aggressive," said Shazier, who had a game-high six assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes. "We wanted to come out and throw the first punch. Not literally. We are balanced. We don't have that one guy we feed off."
That is not the case for AU (7-17, 4-5), as Moldoveanu picked up his second foul at the 8:13 mark of the first half and went to the bench without having scored. He missed his first five shots and did not return until the second half began.
Moldoveanu, from Romania, picked up his third foul with 18:46 left in the game and again went to the bench and returned with 12:28 to play. He ended up making one of seven shots from the floor after scoring at least 14 points in every game since he became eligible Dec. 16 after transferring from George Mason.
"We just wanted to pressure him and not let him get any easy looks," Behan said.
The Bison took the lead at 53-36 on a basket by Willman late in the second half and were never threatened down the stretch.
Bucknell's biggest lead of the first half came at 16-3 with 11:30 left after a field goal and free throw by Muscala. But AU began to chip away at the lead and pulled to within 26-25 on a three-pointer by Nick Hendra, who had a game-high 19 points off the bench for the Eagles.
But Johnson hit two free throws with 1:00 left to give the Bison a 28-25 lead at the break. The Bison made just one of seven 3-point shots in the first half but committed just two turnovers. Bucknell had a school-record one turnover in the game against AU last month.
In the previous meeting this season Bucknell won, 72-68, in overtime in Lewisburg on Jan. 30 as Behan had 22 points and Johnson had 16. The Bison had just one turnover in that game and only three on Thursday at AU. "That is the key," Paulsen said. "We are practicing especially hard. We have a good depth."