LEWISBURG - Kent State coach Rob Senderoff, like all coaches on Bucknell's schedule, was well aware of Bison big man Mike Muscala. At 6-foot-11, the Bison senior is hard not to notice and his 2012 numbers of 17.8 points and 12.1 rebounds a game elicit all kinds of adjectives from opposing coaches.
It was a comparison Tuesday night, though, by Senderoff that raised a few eyebrows. The second-year head coach, who has also been an assistant at Kent State on two occasions, said Muscala was the best big man he has seen while at Kent State since Chris Kaman in 2003. Kaman, currently with the Dallas Mavericks, played at Central Michigan before being drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2003.
Muscala gave Senderoff reason to reach back for the comparison. He delivered 27 points on 12 of 17 shooting as the Bison defeated Kent State at Sojka Pavilion, 76-60, in front of 2,646 fans.
"I said coming into the game that he's the best post player that we've played, and I've been at Kent for a while, since Chris Kaman," said Senderoff. "I don't won't to give lofty expectations and say stuff, but I leave here feeling the same way - he's the best post player we've played since we played Chris Kaman back in '03.
"He's just good. He allows the game come to him and he's aggressive. He plays hard and is skilled. How many more adjectives do you want? I can throw them all out there."
The Bison (8-1) won for the third consecutive time since losing to Penn State on Nov. 23, while Kent State, which was picked to finish third in the East Division of MAC this season, fell to 5-4.
Few stretches of the game showcased Muscala's dominance better than a 1 minute, 30 second span in the second half when the Bison were searching for some breathing room. First Muscala scored on a drop step around Mark Henniger. He then showed off an outside touch with only his second 3-pointer of the season which gave Bucknell a 62-51 lead with with 6:32 remaining. He capped off the personal 8-0 run with a drive down the left side of the paint that ended with a left-handed hook that also drew a foul. The made field goal and ensuing foul brought out a little emotion from the only player in the country that entered last night averaging at least 15 points and 12 rebounds a game.
"My teammates did a real good job of finding me all over the court," Muscala said. "We did a really good job of getting into the flow of offense."
Muscala reached 20 points for the third time this season and he has 56 points in his last two games against Kent State and Columbia - both Bucknell victories.
While big games are nothing new for Muscala, freshman Ryan Frazier continues to enter a new realm as a collegian. Frazier, who played 25 minutes last night after playing a career-high 26 against Colombia, scored a career-high 13 points. The guard from Maryland didn't turn the ball over, knocked down open shots off Muscala kickouts, provided rhythm to an offense that hasn't score more than 75 points since the third game of the season, and played solid defense, which may be the best way for the freshman to continue to see quality minutes.
Frazier played 11 first-half minutes and helped Bucknell to a 32-31 lead. Kent State remained close after knocking down five 3-pointers to offset the 50 percent shooting by Bucknell.
Bucknell led by five to nine points during the first 13 minutes of the second half before Muscala's 8-0 spurt gave the home team a 65-51 lead with 5:58 remaining. A Frazier 3-pointer off an assist from Muscala, who held the team lead in that category entering the game, gave the Bison an 18-point advantage with 2:31 left.
"I think that's the most complete game we've played," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said.
Bryson Johnson added 13 points and made three of Bucknell's seven 3-pointers. Joe Willman finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. The Bison finished plus-12 on the glass overall.
Ayers had nine points and four assists, and held Kent State leading scorer Chris Evans to five points on 2 of 12 shooting. Evans, a junior college transfer, entered last night averaging 18.1 points a game.
"Cameron Ayers did an unbelievable job on their leading scorer Evans," Paulsen said.
"This is certainly the toughest game Chris has had this year and I'm hoping he doesn't have too many more like that or I'll be in trouble," said Senderoff.
Devareaux Manley led the Golden Flashes with 15 points and Kris Brewer had 10.
The Bison will receive an 11-day break from basketball to prepare and take their end-of-the-semester finals before returning to Sojka Pavilion on Dec. 15 to host La Salle.