When people think back on the 2011-2012 Bison men’s basketball season, many memories and performances will come to mind of a gritty, talented team that finished 25-10 overall and 12-2 in regular season league play. The team’s rivalry with Lehigh will certainly be one, with the heartbreaking 82-77 loss in the Patriot League Championship game perhaps most prominent. Many will remember the inspiring effort of Mike Muscala ’13, who produced 30 points and 14 rebounds only to be matched by a 29-point effort by Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum. Others will remember the heroics of Bryson Johnson ’13, who drained two clutch three-pointers to pull the Bison from seven points down to one down in a matter of seconds. Most will remember a second year of league domination that led to another regular season championship.
On top of all this, the most memorable moment of the season will definitely be the Orange and Blue’s awe-inspiring win against the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NIT.
“The win against Arizona was the best win throughout my college career,” Byran Cohen ’12 said. “We have had a couple opportunities to knock off a high-major school over the past four years but were unable to close the game out. Arizona was one that we were able to hold onto our lead till the end of the game and it was even sweeter beating them on their home court in front of a hostile crowd.”
Part of the last tournament of Cohen’s collegiate career, the win was a sweet sendoff for a player who will be remembered as one of the Bison’s all-time greats. For the rest of the team, the Arizona win represented a huge accomplishment in the context of the entire season.
“This season was a little up and down for us and I think the high point of the season for the team and I individually was our win against Arizona,” Johnson said. “Winning against a great team is always a high point and it always good to celebrate a win like that with your teammates.”
Faithful fans witnessed a team that came together and saw tremendous improvement among many players. Muscala continued his ascent as one of the top big men in the nation, saving his best performances for the league championship and NIT. Joe Willman ’13 established himself as a reliable and consistent forward to complement Muscala in the frontcourt, while noticeable improvements from Steven Kaspar ’15 and Ryan Hill ’14 over the course of the season helped ease the loss of guard Darryl Shazier ’11.
Cameron Ayers ’14 continued his development as one of the top shooting guards in the league, and Johnson continued to be one of the best sharp shooters in the league. Cohen completed a stellar collegiate career that saw him win three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, while registering over 1000 career points. Cohen will certainly go down as one of the greatest defenders and all-around players in Patriot League history.
“[The award] is a great individual honor; however I would not have been able to receive this award if it weren’t for my teammates,” Cohen said. “Defense is a team effort and collectively as a team we were a very sound defensively game in and game out throughout my career.”
While the team ultimately fell short of its goal of winning the Patriot League Tournament and returning to the NCAA tournament, the Orange and Blue finished the season with one of the most exciting and impressive victories in program history.
“They way we stuck together when things got tough during certain parts of the season was something I’ll never forget. I was lucky to be on a team with such great people,” Muscala said.
The team looks primed for another run at the league championship in 2013, bringing back all but three players and all but one starter next season.
“Next season should be fun too but we have to get better individually this off season and hopefully that will translate into more success next season. But I’m excited to spend another year with my teammates and have some fun,” Johnson said.