By Greg Stevenson
Already with 19 wins and double-digit conference victories on the year to their credit, all the Bison had left to do to complete a thrilling regular season was beat the Colgate Raiders Sunday afternoon on the road and secure the Patriot League regular season title and home court throughout the conference tournament.
Leading the way to that crucial victory was the Bison bench, who added 31 points and 26 rebounds to overcome a tough Raider squad, 77-69.
“It feels great to win the regular season because it was one of our goals that we set in the beginning of the year,” Cameron Ayers ’14 said . “Home court advantage is a big key going into the postseason, but we have to go out and play our game because any team in this league can beat us on any given night.”
The “go out and play” mentality was exactly what the Orange and Blue took out onto the court against the Raiders. Trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Bison did not panic, quickly fighting back in the second half to take the lead and come away with the victory.
Five Bison scored in double figures, including both Ayers and G.W. Boon ’11 off the bench. Once again, the Orange and Blue made their free throws, converting 15 of 17 from the line. The Bison still rank in the top five in the nation in free-throw percentage, at fourth behind Wisconsin, Harvard, and Colorado with a 78.8 percent mark.
The Orange and Blue followed up the league championship-clinching victory with another impressive win at home, cruising past the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 72-55 Wednesday night. In the first nine minutes of play, the Mountain Hawks jumped to a 26-18 advantage. But the Bison defense clamped down on C.J. McCollum, the leading scorer in the Patriot League, and the rest of the Lehigh offense, allowing just 29 points for the rest of the contest.
“Lehigh is a very dangerous team as they are so explosive offensively,” Enoch Andoh ’12 said . “We know that they put up their best shot but we tuned in defensively to slow them down in transition, keep them off the offensive class and collectively contain McCollum.”
On both ends of the floor, the Bison rode a balanced offense and defense to victory. A near triple-double (13 points, nine rebounds and six assists) by Bryan Cohen ’12 and the quick hands (five steals) of Darryl Shazier ’11 kept the Mountain Hawks from making any legitimate comeback in the second half.
“Lehigh posed an up-tempo style of play and we had to stop them in transition, number one,” Ayers said . “Secondly, they have the best scorer in the league [McCollum] who can dictate an entire game, so my team and I had to be locked in defensively every second he was in the game.”
As the regular season comes to a close, the Army Black Knights will come to Sojka Pavilion Saturday afternoon to face the top-seeded Bison. For the Orange and Blue, the game means a lot. The Bison will be honoring their three seniors, Shazier, Boon and Stephen Tyree, for their four years of service to the team. But it also means avenging a 20-point loss to the Black Knights one month ago, their only conference loss to date. A Bison victory would also mean that Army would automatically receive the eight-seed in the conference tournament and a match-up with the Orange and Blue again on Wednesday night in the Patriot League quarterfinals.