LEWISBURG, Pa. — TThe Dartmouth men’s basketball team battled Bucknell on Tuesday night at Sojka Pavilion, drilling a season-high 11 three-pointers, but the host Bison scored 21 of their final 25 points at the foul line to earn a 62-49 victory. Mike Muscala was one of two players for Bucknell (6-1) to post a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Alex Mitola led Dartmouth (1-3) in scoring for the third straight game with 12 points, all from behind the three-point line.
Although the Big Green hit 40.7 percent (11-of-27) of their three-pointers, they could not get much of anything to fall inside the arc, hitting just 20 percent (5-of-25) of their two-point shots, to finish at 30.8 percent (16-of-52) overall.
The Bison weren’t much better at 36.4 percent (16-of-44) from the floor with just one three-pointer in eight attempts. The difference in the game came at the free throw line as the Bison converted 29-of-34 (.853) foul shots compared to just 6-of-8 (.750) for Dartmouth.
Bucknell controlled the first six minutes of action, building a 12-2 lead as the Big Green misfired on their first six shots. Sophomore John Golden broke the Bison run with a three-pointer, and Mitola followed with another to quickly cut the deficit to four.
The two teams traded a pair of baskets before Dartmouth rained in four more triples — two by Mitola and two more by sophomore Jvonte Brooks — in a span of just over two-and-a-half minutes to account for a 12-2 run of its own, causing Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen to call a timeout with the Big Green ahead, 24-20. The Bison came out of the timeout with a bucket, but neither team could score again until Golden was whistled for a foul on a desperation three from 30 feet with less than a second left in the half. Bryson Johnson canned all three foul shots, allowing Bucknell to take a one-point lead into the intermission, 25-24.
Only eight fouls were called in the first half, with all three against Bucknell coming in the final four minutes. That trend did not continue after the break, however, as the two sides combined to commit 30 fouls, 21 of which went against Dartmouth.
Muscala provided the first points of the second half down low, but Brooks, who had one three-pointer in his career entering the game, responded with his third trifecta to tie the game at 27. Bucknell pulled back ahead by five before freshman Connor Boehm scored his first collegiate points with two free throws. After Golden hit a floater in the lane, Johnson ripped the net for the only Bison three-ball of the night. Boehm answered immediately with a trey of his own, and rookie Malik Gill sank one of his two free throws to tie the game once more at 35 with 13:34 to play.
The fouls picked up in earnest at that point, beginning with a Muscala three-point play the hard way. The big man then hit four more foul shots, and Joe Willman added two more for a nine-point Bison run and lead.
With eight minutes to play, Golden popped another three-pointer, cutting the Bucknell advantage to five at 45-40. Cameron Ayers, the other Bison to post a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, kept Dartmouth from getting any closer, picking up a steal and finishing at the other end for one of the only two Bucknell field goals in the final 11 minutes. Willman had the other to cap a six-point spurt and boost the Bucknell lead back into double figures, 51-40, for the first time since the 12-2 start.
Again Golden drained a three, this time with 5:16 on the clock. Twice the Big Green would get as close as seven points, the second one thanks to the final three-pointer from Mitola, but Bucknell hit 11 of its last 12 free throws to keep the game out of Dartmouth’s reach.
Not only did Bucknell hold a distinct advantage in free throws, but rebounds as well with a 37-26 edge on the glass.
Both Brooks and Golden joined Mitola in double figures with 11 points and three three-pointers each. Center Gabas Maldunas led the Big Green both on the boards with seven rebounds and in finding the open man with four assists.
For Bucknell, Willman matched Ayers’ 13 points, plus had a team-high three assists and three blocked shots. Johnson was the other Bison in double figures with 10 points and the only player in the game to hit more than half of his field-goal attempts (2-of-3).
Dartmouth continues an eight-game road trip when it travels to Virginia to take on the Longwood Lancers Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Next up for Bucknell is another Ivy League match up, this one at Columbia at 7 p.m. on Saturday.