LEWISBURG, Pa. — Jimmy Sotos, Andrew Funk and Walter Ellis each made four 3-pointers and Bucknell connected on 11 of 16 from behind the arc in the second half to defeat Hofstra 86-71 in men’s basketball action Wednesday evening at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison finished the game 15-for-28 from 3-point range and out-rebounded the Pride 48-33 to improve to 2-1 on the season.
Sotos led all scorers with a career-high 24 points, and Bucknell’s bench had another huge night with 36 points, led by 14 points from John Meeks, 12 from Ellis, and eight points, three rebounds and four blocked shots from Kahliel Spear.
Paul Newman posted a game and career-high 14 rebounds for Bucknell, which trailed by four points early in the second half after a big run from the Pride. But the Bison outscored Hofstra (1-2) 46-27 over the game’s final 17 minutes,
The Pride had four starters in double figures with Desure Buie leading the way with 19 points, 11 coming at the free-throw line.
“I thought our guys showed great focus in practice the last two days in preparation for this game,” said head coach Nathan Davis. “We are a much more effective shooting team when the ball is moving around from side to side and we are getting kickouts from paint touches. Obviously we shot the three at a very high rate tonight, but it wasn’t just by chance, it was because the ball movement was so much better.”
The Bison lamented a 3-for-22 performance from the 3-point arc in Sunday’s 66-63 loss to Vermont. Playing a 27-win team from a year ago for the second straight game, this time Bucknell attacked Hofstra’s 2-3 zone with great efficiency.
The Bison ran out to a 10-2 lead and went up by as many as 12 in the first half on a Newman put-back with 2:07 remaining. But Hofstra cut its deficit in half with an 8-2 run to close the period, and then the Pride scored 12 of the first 14 in the second half. Tareq Coburn’s 3-pointer capped an overall 20-4 run and gave the visitors a 44-40 lead.
Coming out of a timeout, Meeks hit a big 3-pointer to get the Bison going again. Sotos followed with a driving layup to give the Bison the lead back. Four minutes later Pemberton’s tip-in gave Hofstra a 52-51 advantage, but at that point Bucknell was starting to go berserk from long range.
The Bison hit seven straight 3-point attempts and 11 of 13 in one stretch. Two in quick succession from Sotos and Ellis stretched a two-point lead up to eight, and then Sotos made two free throws to stretch the margin all the way back up to 10 at 65-55.
Bucknell put the game out of reach around the six-minute mark when Funk hit a three off a Ben Robertson drive and kick, and then Ellis hit two in a row for a 79-63 lead.
“Vermont is a great team, but we all felt like we let one get away on Sunday,” said Davis. “I was very pleased with how we responded in practice the last two days, and then tonight when Hofstra made that run, we never panicked. That is the kind of resilience we are going to need all season.”
Bucknell and Hofstra, one-time rivals in the East Coast Conference, were meeting for the first time since Dec. 29, 2001. The Pride won a school-record 27 games along with the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title a year ago.
The Bison turned in a strong defensive effort, limiting Hofstra to 38.1-percent shooting, including a 6-for-19 showing from 3-point distance. Bucknell opponents are now 12-for-76 (.158) from the arc this season.
Hofstra did hit 17 of 27 from the foul line, compared to 9 of 11 for Bucknell, but the Bison countered much of that disparity with a 48-33 rebounding edge. The Bison grabbed 15 offensive rebounds – six from Newman – which led to 14 second-chance points.
Bucknell had 19 assists on 31 made field goals, with six players recording multiple assists. The Bison shot 46.3 percent on the night.
Led by Meeks with three straight double-digit scoring games, the Bison bench has been fantastic thus far. The reserve unit has piled up 96 points in three games, accounting for 44.2 percent of the team’s scoring.
Sotos’ previous career scoring high was 23 points last season against Canisius, and that is where Bucknell will head next. The Bison and Golden Griffins will meet on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Buffalo. The game will stream on ESPN3.