Bucknell struggles in 80-68 loss to No. 18 Vandy

BY foxsports • November 15, 2011

Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen and his Bison head home knowing what they need to work on after starting the season on the road at Minnesota and No. 18 Vanderbilt.

Paulsen said how well they can learn from these lessons remains to be seen after an 80-68 loss to Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.

''We can't replicate the defensive pressure on the perimeter that Vanderbilt presented to us. We can't do that. We just don't have that type of athleticism, and we can't replicate Trevor Mbwake in Minnesota on the glass,'' Paulsen said. ''So that illuminates some problem areas, and we just need to work to correct those.''

It'll be easier for the defending Patriot League champs now that the Bison (0-2) return home and open their home schedule Saturday against Saint Francis (Pa.).

Joe Willman led Bucknell with 17 points, Joshea Singleton had 12 and Mike Muscala and Brian Fitzpatrick 10 apiece. But Vanderbilt put senior Jeffery Taylor on Bryson Johnson, and the guard who shot 45.6 percent from 3-point range last season, seventh best nationally, was 0 of 3 from beyond the arc. Johnson finished with just four points.

''Playing at this level against guys like Vanderbilt has, he's giving up size and he's giving up half a step,'' Paulsen said. ''We really have to create some opportunities for them, and I think Vanderbilt really, really bottled us with our ball screens and made us get to second options to some degree ... It certainly frustrated Bryson, and we rely on him to knock down some big shots.''

Taylor also scored 14 points and led five players in double digits as Vanderbilt (2-1) bounced back from losing to Cleveland State on Sunday even with two starters out due to injuries. That loss dropped the Commodores from No. 7. John Jenkins, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer last season, hurt his right ankle in the loss when he stepped on a player's foot in the first half, while senior center Festus Ezeli is out with a sprained knee until at least December.

''It was a huge game for us after the performance against Cleveland State,'' Taylor said. ''We were all real disappointed, kind of ashamed of it. So we put an emphasis on this game to just play hard and kind of let everything else take care of itself. We feel we're talented enough offensively that if we play hard, then we'll take care of most games. Just go out and compete every night.''

Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne and Kedren Johnson each added 12 points. Rod Odom had 10.

Vanderbilt plays N.C. State on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., in the semifinals of the Legends Classic.

This was the first game between the Patriot League team and Vanderbilt, but Bucknell beat the last two SEC teams it played, including Arkansas in the 2006 NCAA tournament. The Bison also won the Patriot League last season with the conference's player of the year in Muscala, and they stayed in this game early by getting to the free throw line.

The Bison went 16 of 20 there compared to Vandy's 8 of 15. But the Commodores outrebounded Bucknell 39-32 with a 14-3 edge on the offensive glass and got plenty of help with 35 points from their bench players.

''We had guys come off the bench and play well,'' Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ''Kedren really gave us a boost. Our bench played well tonight. We have struggled with good play from the bench in the first couple games. Tonight our bench played well, and I was really happy for them.''

The Commodores opened the game still struggling to shoot just as they did in losing to Cleveland State. They missed five straight shots early, and Taylor picked up his second foul with 6:59 left. He went to the bench and stayed there the rest of the first half.

Vanderbilt took better care of the ball. They had just five turnovers after 21 against Cleveland State. Johnson said it was a big emphasis in practice Monday.

''And coach just really tried to stress to us to take care of the ball. That's the most important thing,'' Johnson said.

Bucknell kept it tight in the first half and last led 22-21 after Steven Kaspar hit a layup with 3:34 left.

Josh Henderson, a redshirt freshman helping fill in with Ezeli out, hit a short jumper that put Vandy ahead to stay with 2:46 left. Tinsley hit a jumper, then Parker finished a fast-break with a layup for a 27-26 halftime lead. Vanderbilt kept building the lead from there, going up by as much as 76-55 on a 3-pointer by Parker with 2:30 left.

The Commodores found their touch in the second half and opened with a 12-2 run to take control. Johnson's 3-pointer made it 47-34 with 14:02 remaining. Vanderbilt, which went 2-of-15 from 3-point range in the first half, hit five of its first 8 beyond the arc in the second half. The Commodores kept pushing the lead out to as much as 76-55 on a 3-pointer by Parker with 2:30 left.

After hitting 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half, Vandy hit 8 of 15 in the second.

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