Bucknell took advantage of shoddy second-half play by struggling American last night and rallied from seven points behind to defeat the Eagles, 66-62, in an East Coast Conference game at Fort Myer.
Bucknell (5-6 overall and 1-1 in the ECC) hung on in the waning minutes despite pressure from AU (7-6, 0-2). Bucknell was behind until eight minutes from the end, when it went ahead, 52-51, on two free throws by Craig Cody. AU never led again.
Cal Puriefoy, who did a fine job breaking the Eagles' press and finished with 17 points, scored on a breakaway and a dunk and added a free throw to help the visitors to their largest lead in the game, 59-53, with 1:39 remaining.
"We worked hard preparing for that press," said Bucknell Coach Charlie Woollum. "All we wanted was to get a shot each time down the floor. We came in to play basketball, go down shooting. We took some bad shots but we had enough poise to win at the end."
Four times AU pulled within a point or two in the final 72 seconds, but each time a Bucknell player would step to the free throw line and make shots to protect the lead.
Ray Moss (13 points), Eric Hegedus and Puriefoy each took turns. After AU guard Gordon Austin's driving shot down the lane and Mark Nickens' 15-footer cut the deficit to 59-57, Moss made two from the line to give the Bison a four-point edge with 1:08 left.
Baskets by Austin and Ed Sloane, who led all scorers with 23 points, were answered with free throws. Hedegus made two to make it 64-61 with 40 seconds left. Sloane made one of two from the line to make it a two-point game again, but Puriefoy ended the Eagles' comeback with two free throws with 29 seconds to play.
"Give Bucknell credit, they stayed right there and didn't quit," said AU Coach Ed Tapscott. "We're just not doing the little things we need to do to win . . . we're just struggling right now."
AU looked sluggish in the first half, despite gaining a 10-point lead, 29-19, with just over two minutes left before intermission. Several turnovers and bad shots by AU in the waning seconds enabled the Bison to score six straight points and trail by only 31-29 at intermission.
The Eagles improved their lead to 38-31 early in the second half but couldn't put the Bison away. Jaye Andrews, who played here at Landon, kept his team in the game in the first half with six jumpers. He finished with 18 points.
"We should have put them away and we didn't," said Austin, who fouled out with 12 points. "We're going through a tough period when nothing goes right."