Matching up with Michigan State’s roster, laden with future NBA players Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Joshua Langford, is a tall task for any mid-major.
Bucknell learned that the hard way in an 82-78 win that was much closer than the final score indicated. In fact, one could call the Bison’s Herculean task of taking on a probable title favorite in Detroit the— well, take it away, Jon:
Bucknell was good enough to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Bison got an awful draw. Michigan State in Detroit? The epitome of brutality.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 17, 2018
Senior Zach Thomas propelled the Bison with 27 points — a new school record for points scored in an NCAA Tournament game — including a huge 20-point showing in the first frame. For a moment, the Bison looked primed to shred the rest of the country’s brackets (or what was left of them).
Then Bucknell came apart at the seams.
On the heels of scoring 40 points in a half — including 5-11 from three — the Bison made two (2) field goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Michigan State’s longer, more athletic frontcourt clamped down on the Patriot League champions, putting the game out of reach and the Bison on the wrong end of a highlight reel:
With the game all but out of reach for Bucknell, players on both teams got chippy. Officials doled out — chief among them was Thomas, who fouled out with 6:27 to play for exchanging words with a referee.
For comparison, Bucknell had more personal fouls in the second half (14) than field goals (10). And most of them came when the game was out of reach.
It wasn’t an ideal end for Bucknell’s seniors, who were two-time Patriot League champions, but a 25-10 season is not anything to be shy about.