By Greg Stevenson
The men’s basketball team’s opening round match-up with the Navy Midshipmen was a return to form as the Bison dominated the Mids from start to finish, winning 87-63. After struggling towards the end of their Patriot League schedule, the Orange and Blue advanced to the conference semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Before the contest began, two members of the Bison squad were honored for their outstanding season. Bryan Cohen ’12, in his final season in an Orange and Blue uniform, won his third consecutive Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year award. He became just the second player ever to win three major individual conference awards and the first to win the same award three times. After leading the Orange and Blue to a 12-2 league record and their second straight regular season conference title, head coach Dave Paulsen was recognized with the Patriot League Coach of the Year award, one he won last season as well.
The Bison delivered the first blow against Navy, jumping ahead 11-3 just five minutes in. The three-point shot kept Navy within striking distance early on, but it would not be enough on this night.
The Orange and Blue played one of their most efficient offensive games on the season, shooting 62.7 percent from the field and making over half of their baskets from beyond the three-point arc. Leading the way offensively was Joe Willman ’13, who tallied 18 points while shooting over 70 percent from the field in 24 minutes of play.
Bryson Johnson ’13 found his stroke from outside, knocking in five three-pointers off the bench. Three of those came during a three-minute stretch late in the first half in which the Bison swelled their two-point advantage to 11. The run kept going into halftime, when the Bison took a 20-point lead into the locker room.
The second half proved much of the same story as the first. The Orange and Blue would extend the lead to 31 at one point. Navy was cut the lead to 24 but it proved too little, too late.
The Bison will face the Lafayette Leopards at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinal round of the tournament.