University at Albany had no answer for Bucknell’s blistering long-range shooting attack.
The Bison knocked down 10 three-pointers in the first half alone and finished with 14 treys en route to a 77-64 non-conference victory over the Great Danes Saturday night at SEFCU Arena.
It was the third straight loss for the 2-3 Great Danes. Bucknell, like UAlbany an NCAA tournament team a year ago, is 3-2.
Bucknell came close to breaking its team record for three-pointers (17), set against West Alabama in 2011.
Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen said his team, which finished with a school-record 28 wins last year, has changed its focus completely and is now a guard-oriented, three-point-shooting team. Last year’s team was led by post player Mike Muscala, who graduated with 2,036 points and 1,093 rebounds. He was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, and is now playing in Europe.
“That’s about what we do,” said Paulsen. “Last year, we were completely different. We played slower last year, and we had the lowest percentage of threes in our conference. But we’re built differently this year. Now, we play with four guards, and we shoot a lot of threes.
“We spread the floor tonight. We had good spacing, we knocked down the threes and we hit the open man. I also think we defended better in the second half.”
Bucknell, which beat Penn State and had tight losses to Stanford and St. John’s earlier this season, was averaging a little more than seven three-pointers per game and was shooting 42.6 percent from beyond the arc. Saturday night, the Bison doubled that number and shot 66.7 percent.
“We’re going to have nights like that,” Paulsen said. “We didn’t get as many threes in the second half. But we are a very unselfish team, and we found the open man. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys.”
Ben Brackney poured in 22 points on 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range, while Cameron Ayers (15), Steven Kaspar (11) and Brian Fitzpatrick (10) also scored in twin figures for Bucknell.
Sophomore guard Peter Hooley matched his career high, set in his last game against Duquesne, with 21 points to lead the Great Danes. He was 11-for-11 from the line. Sam Rowley added 15 points and 10 rebounds, while senior point guard D.J. Evans chipped in with 13 points.
“Whoever you play, don’t expect them to shoot like this,” said Hooley. “You don’t think they are going to stroke it like they did. They were 10-for-14 [from three-point range] in the first half. I think they are the best team we faced all year. They don’t beat themselves.”
“We need to come out stronger in the first half,” said Rowley of the Great Danes, who have trailed at the half in all five of their games.
UAlbany head coach Will Brown, whose team was playing without senior small forward Gary Johnson (ankle injury), said the Danes played the wrong team at the wrong time.
“We’ve been playing a gap/pack defense, and we’ve been trying to keep teams out of the paint,” he said. “It was a tough game for us, because our reaction was to force teams into jump shots. We got caught trying to help out on defense too much. I was concerned not having Gary Johnson in the lineup, because he’s been our best defender.”
Bucknell never trailed. The Bison connected on their first two three-pointers and kept firing away from long range. They built 16-point leads at 35-19 and 47-31 before settling for a 51-38 halftime edge.
Bucknell’s largest lead of the game was 17 (57-40) after knocking down two three-pointers early in the second half.
UAlbany sliced its deficit to 10 points several times, but never threatened the Bison.
“We lost the game in the first half,” said Brown. “When it rains, it pours. Our goal was to make them take contested twos. We let a very dangerous team get comfortable and get into a rhythm. You have to give Bucknell a lot of credit.”
Brown said that he knows the best is yet to come from his Great Danes.
“We need to get more out of our bench,” he said. “Every guy on this team is in a new role. By the time the new year rolls around, we need to establish some consistency in our rotation. This team will be a very good team. It’s just a matter of when.”
The Great Danes shot 43.8 percent from the floor and made 18 of 24 free throws. They only turned the ball over 10 times.
UAlbany plays the next four games on the road — at Rider, at NJIT, at Holy Cross and at Brown — before returning home to host Colgate Dec. 14.
Kaspar 4-10 2-2 11, Fitzpatrick 4-5 0-0 10, Hass 2-3 0-0 6, Brackney 7-11 2-3 22, Ayers 6-11 1-2 15, Azzinaro 0-1 0-0 0, Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Starkey 0-0 0-0 0, Frazier 3-5 0-1 7, Hoffman 3-6 0-0 6. Totals: 29-53 5-8 77.
Evans 5-11 1-3, 13, Hooley 4-10 11-11 21, S. Rowley 7-13 1-3 15, Wiegmann 3-7 2-3 8, Puk 1-1 0-0 2, Odunsi 0-0 0-0 0, Haas 0-2 2-2 2, M. Rowley 1-4 0-0 2, Devlin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-48 18-24 64.
Halftime: Bucknell, 51-38. Three-point goals: Bucknell 14-21 (Kaspar 1-1, Fitzpatrick 2-2, Hass 2-3, Brackney 6-10, Ayers 2-3, Frazier 1-2), UAlbany 4-14 (Evans 2-4, Hooley 2-5, Wiegmann 0-2, Haas 0-2, M. Rowley 0-1). Rebounds: Bucknell 29 (Kaspar 6), UAlbany 30 (S. Rowley 10). Assists: Bucknell 20 (Kaspar 9), UAlbany 7 (Evans 3). Total fouls: Bucknell 19, UAlbany 12. Fouled out: Brackney, Evans. Technical fouls: Ayers. Officials: Paul Faia, Carl Luciano, Harkeem Dixon. Attendance: 3,756.