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Smaller Bucknell managed the press, but not the boards

Bucknell withstood the heat of the West Virginia press reasonably well Thursday afternoon.

The Bison made 15 turnovers against a Mountaineers team that forced a national-best 20.4 turnovers a game.

What killed Bucknell more than turnovers in its 86-80 NCAA Tournament defeat was rebounding. West Virginia held a 17-9 edge in offensive boards and outscored the Bison, 20-6, in second-chance points.

“Once we saw we could get the ball in and get it up the court, it was nothing new to us,” said Bucknell guard Stephen Brown. “Coach said going into the game, we’ve faced the press before but the biggest thing for us was second-chance opportunities.”

Bucknell did a good job of attacking the basket after it broke the press, which helped set up open three-pointers. The Bison hit 9 of 20 threes.

“Everybody turns it over some on them,” said Bucknell coach Nathan Davis. “We didn’t want to end up in a situation where we did break it, and then . . . it gets you rushed, and all of a sudden you end up throwing some balls out of bounds when guys are open, fumbling a ball out of bounds, rushing a layup.”

Davis said he didn’t have a turnover target in mind.

“We look more at turnover percentage by possession,” Davis said. “We like to be around 15 or 16 percent, which is really low. If you’re getting in at 18, 19 percent you’re doing a pretty good job.”

The Bison made turnovers on 20 percent of their possessions.

“Once we got the rebound and got it out in transition, it was easy to beat the press,” Brown said. “But out of bounds, under the basket, on the sidelines, it was tough for us at times.”

Prime-time player: Bucknell sophomore point guard Kimbal Mackenzie hit a career-high five three-pointers and scored 23 points, two shy of his career high. Mackenzie, the Oakville, Ont., product, made 5 of 7 threes and 7 of 15 shots overall.

“What Bucknell did was make shots,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “They don’t always, nobody does, make shots that well. Mackenzie’s 5 for 7 for three and Steven Brown hit some big threes. Seemed like every time we started to get away from them a little bit they made a three.”

Bright future: Bucknell has won the past two Patriot League regular-season titles and has finished in the top four of the league 22 of the past 27 seasons. The Bison will return all five starters next season. Heading the Bison squad will be 6-9 Nana Foulland, who won the conference’s player of the year and defensive player of the year awards as a junior this season. Foulland scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes against the Mountaineers.

“He’s a really good player in any league,” Huggins said. “He’s athletic, and not just at the offensive end. He changed so many shots. He really disrupted us offensively with the shot-blocking ability.”

Bench power: West Virginia outscored the Bison, 37-5, off the bench. The Mountaineers rank 42nd in the nation in bench minutes, according to the Pomeroy analytics, with the reserves getting 38 percent of the team’s minutes. Bucknell’s bench saw a decent amount of minutes against Patriot League foes but not much against the Mountaineers. Davis stuck mostly with six guys. The seventh man got eight minutes.

Big 12 vs. ACC: West Virginia will try to buck a conference trend when it plays Notre Dame of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday. The Big 12 was 1-6 vs. the ACC this season. West Virginia had the only win, scoring a 66-57 win over Virginia on Dec. 3. Virginia finished sixth in the ACC. Notre Dame did not play a Big 12 team this season.

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