LEWISBURG - Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen was asked for his thoughts about Tuesday's game as part of his usual opening statement in the postgame press conference. The fifth-year coach took a few seconds, trying to find the words to describe his team's latest performance.
"I thought, obviously, it was an ugly game," said Paulsen before also giving credit to the opponent.
As the press conference progressed and the words flowed easier, Paulsen added he'd like to see his team play "more artistic, aesthetically-pleasing basketball."
The more than 2,700 fans at Sojka Pavilion would likely agree with their coach, but playing winning basketball helps mask many aspects of ugly - something the Bison didn't do the last time out in a loss at Penn State.
The veteran Bison made sure their first defeat of the season didn't turn into a losing streak with a 62-49 victory over confident-shooting Dartmouth.
Part of the ugly for the Bison (6-1) was six made field goals in the second half. Dartmouth helped the Bison offset that dismal number by placing the home team in the double bonus before the midway point of the half and Bucknell's foul shooters made the Big Green (1-3) pay. Bucknell made 24 of 29 second-half foul shots and finished 29 of 34. The 29 makes and 34 attempts were both season-highs.
"To our guys credit we got to the foul line and a good team finds a way to do that," said Paulsen.
While Bucknell scored 29 of its 62 points from the foul line, 33 of Dartmouth's 49 points came from beyond the arc.
Bucknell, which made just one 3-pointer, struggled to extend its lead and trailed by as many as four points in the first half before pulling away late.
A 9-0 Bucknell run that began with a Mike Muscala 3-point play with 11:42 left in the game finally gave the Bison the separation they were chasing all night. The lead dipped to five before a 6-0 spurt gave the Bison their first double-digit lead with 5:35 left. The final of 11 Dartmouth 3-pointers cut the Bucknell advantage to seven points with 1:30 remaining, but the Bison scored eight of the final 10 points.
"They hit some tough shots," said Bucknell senior Joe Willman, one of three Bucknell senior starters. "You feel like you are up a little more but they keep hitting threes, trading threes for twos and they are a lot closer than (you feel) they are. We knew we had to stay with it and fight through it."
The Big Green, who started two freshmen and three sophomores, attempted 27 3-pointers and 26 shots from inside the line. They made 41 percent of their 3-point attempts, but less than 20 percent from everywhere else on the floor.
Alex Mitola, who began his shot from his hip like he was a gunslinger from the wild west, pulled the trigger for four made 3-pointers. The freshman from the same high school in New Jersey as Bucknell freshman Dom Hoffman led the Big Green with 12 points. John Golden and Jvonte Brooks each knocked down three 3-pointers and each finished with 11 points.
Bryson Johnson had 10 points for Bucknell and hit his team's only 3-pointer. Johnson, however, was fouled on a 3-point attempt near the first-half buzzer and made three foul shots that gave the Bison a 25-24 lead after 20 minutes.
"Bryson hitting those foul shots before the half was really pivotal going into the half," said Paulsen.
Cameron Ayers and Muscala each had double-doubles for the Bison. Muscala, who was 7 of 7 from the foul line, finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Ayers had 13 points and 10 boards.
Bucknell meets another Ivy League opponent on Saturday at Columbia.
Carpenter 1-4 0-0 2, Maldunas 2-9 1-2 5, Golden 4-10 0-0 11, Brooks 3-9 2-2 11, Mitola 4-14 0-0 12, Melville 0-0 0-0 0, McKearney 0-0 0-0 0, Boehm 2-4 2-2 7, Crescenzi 0-1 0-0 0, Gill 0-1 1-2 1, McConnell 0-0 0-0 0, Savolainen 0-1 0-0 0, McDonnell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-53 6-8 49.
Willman 4-9 5-6 13, Muscala 5-10 7-7 17, Hill 1-4 4-6 6, Johnson 2-3 5-5 10, Ayers 3-8 7-8 13, Singleton 0-0 0-0 0, Kaspar 0-0 0-0 0, Fitzpatrick 0-4 0-0 0, Frazier 0-4 1-2 1, Hoffman 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-44 29-34 62.
Halftime-Bucknell 25-24. 3-Point Goals-Dartmouth 11-27 (Mitola 4-10, Brooks 3-4, Golden 3-7, Boehm 1-2, Carpenter 0-1, Crescenzi 0-1, Gill 0-1, Savolainen 0-1), Bucknell 1-8 (Johnson 1-2, Ayers 0-2, Frazier 0-4). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Dartmouth 26 (Maldunas 7), Bucknell 37 (Muscala 11). Assists-Dartmouth 12 (Maldunas 4), Bucknell 8 (Willman 3). Total Fouls-Dartmouth 26, Bucknell 12. A-2,729.