American and Bucknell faced off for the top spot in the Patriot League on Thursday night. After the 55-50 loss, the Eagles look locked into third place in the Patriot League with one game to go before the Patriot League Tournament. Bucknell, with the win, take a full game lead over Lehigh, and are now guaranteed a top-2 spot with American two games back. After a strong first half, after which American led 26-24, the Bison used a 12-0 run to gain separation from the Eagles, and never looked back.
- Bucknell's Defense: The Eagles were held to just 36.5 percent (19-52) shooting on the night. They also forced 7 turnovers and blocked three shots. C Mike Muscala and G Bryan Cohen really stood out individually. Muscala had two blocks, but altered at least a half dozen more shots throughout the game. Cohen held American's leading scorer Charles Hinkle, who averages 19.1 points per game, to just 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting. Hinkle was a non-factor, and he credited Cohen with shutting him down "He [Cohen] just disrupted our sets, and I had to look to help other guys get open."
- American's Perimeter Defense: Both coaches game plans focused on their defense, and both coaches succeeded in that regard. As good as Bucknell's defense was, American's was up to the task as well. Apart from their struggles against Mike Muscala, the Eagles did a good job of shutting down everyone else. If you take out Muscala's numbers, Bucknell shot just 9-of-33 from the field, and 4-of-8 from the free throw line. American's guards did a great job shutting down Bucknell's guards, and while the Bison did shoot nearly 50 percent (7-of-15) from three, the visitors struggled getting into the lane and creating assists.
C Mike Muscala, Bucknell: Muscala, the Patriot League's reigning Player of the Year, was outstanding tonight. American just had no answer when Tony Wroblicky wasn't on the court. Muscala finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds (5 offensive), 2 blocks, 2 assists and a steal. He dominated the paint area, both on the offensive and defensive end. American Coach Jeff Jones made sure to point out that he was the best player on the court and that they just couldn't stop him. Jones also said that he was playing like the Patriot League Player of the Year again, and praised him, a lot, in the post-game press conference.
- Bucknell's 12-0 Run: Well, bad for American. The 12-0 run was the turning point in the game. It started with just over seven minutes remaining with a Muscala free throw and lay-up, before Bucknell rattled off three straight 3's from three different players. The run turned a 40-38 American lead into a 50-40 Bucknell advantage and the 10 point lead for the Bison proved to be insurmountable for the Eagles.
- American's Defensive Rebounding: The Eagles allowed the Bison to grab 12 offensive rebounds, 5 by Mike Muscala alone. The key rebound came with 4:03 left in the game, after a Muscala miss. .Steven Kaspar came up with a long offensive rebound and the ensuing three by Bryson Johnson extended Bucknell's lead to 47-40.
- Guards Charles Hinkle and Blake Jolivette, American: The duo combined for 2-of-20 shooting on the night. Both were throwing up bricks from all over the floor. Jolivette, at one point, cut across the lane and just tossed a shot up which Muscala caught on the way up. The two also had 3 of American's 7 turnovers. It was just an ugly shooting night for the pair, and as Hinkle said, Bucknell just took them out of their offense and they couldn't run their sets. They were forced into shooting some off-balance contested shots and couldn't get going.
- With the loss American falls two games behind Bucknell in the standings, and look locked into the three-seed in the Patriot League tournament. With Bucknell just about locking up the top spot, that means American will host their first round game, likely against Army, before probably going on the road for their next two Tournament games. Charles Hinkle proclaimed after the game "We'll see them again." Hopefully, for the Eagles sake, he improves on his 5-of-20 shooting in the two games against the Bison this year.