Bison Buffalo Hogs

DALLAS -- Bucknell is no secret any longer.

And the Bison certainly are no fluke.

After a stunning win last year over Kansas as a 14 seed, some considered the Bison victory a stunner.

For the second straight year tiny Bucknell won its opening round NCAA Tournament game and this year it was Arkansas that fell to the Patriot League power.

The No. 9 seed Bison made 11 of 21 3-point shots and ended eighth-seeded Arkansas' season 59-55 before 19,028 fans in American Airlines Center on Friday.

Charles Lee scored 24 points for Bucknell (25-6) and helped limit Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer to 14, as the Bison overcame Arkansas' athleticism with its superior offense and defense.

"My players may not be giddy, but I'm still giddy," said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery. "We played to our strengths. Obviously, we can shoot the basketball around the horn, and a lot of our clock-down offense is for 3s."

The Razorbacks (22-10) fell behind 33-23 early in the second half and hurt themselves by missing nine of their first 13 free throws in that half, before rallying to tie the score at 55 on two Jonathon Modica free throws with 1:15 left.

But after Arkansas nearly forced a 10-second count in backcourt, Bison forward Donald Brown found Lee underneath for a layup and a 57-55 lead at 1:01, setting the stage for a wild final minute.

Eric Ferguson missed a 3-point try late in the shot clock for Arkansas, and Brewer had to foul Lee with 30.7 seconds left. Lee missed the one-and-one, Bucknell rebounded and Brewer fouled Kevin Bettencourt (18 points) with 27 ticks to go.

Bettencourt, a 78 percent free throw shooter who had made 5 of 10 3-point tries in the game, missed both free throws to give the Hogs a chance to tie. Brewer then missed a well-guarded 12-foot jumper with about 12 seconds left. Arkansas' Vincent Hunter emerged with the ball near the baseline but was unable to get a controlled shot away.

Bucknell point guard Abe Badmus, who did not take a floor shot all game, was fouled with 7.9 seconds left and made both free throws around Arkansas' last timeout for the 59-55 final tally.

Modica, who led Arkansas with 19 points, missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.

"We're disappointed," said UA coach Stan Heath. "We thought we'd be able to stay here longer. Bucknell is a very good team. We had a lot of opportunities but didn't make the 3s and didn't make the free throws."

Arkansas, outscored 33-6 on 3-point shots, made just 2 of 12 from behind the arc.

The Razorbacks had not lost in Dallas since Baylor beat them 74-73 in the old Southwest Conference Tournament in 1988. Bucknell ended that 19-game streak, before perhaps 6,000 Arkansas fans in the crowd of 19,000-plus.

The fans howled early as Hogs center Steven Hill blocked four shots in the first five minutes, but as Bettencourt said, "It went dead quiet after Donald (Brown) made that great pass to Charles (to set up a layup and 57-55 Bison lead)."

Bettencourt, who simply shot his 3s when they were open, also said, "This shows last year was not as big a fluke as people thought it was."

As a No. 14 seed last season, Bucknell stunned Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"We didn't underestimate Bucknell," Brewer said. "They ran their sets well and knocked down some shots, especially with the shot clock going down."

Heath commended Arkansas for holding Bucknell to 38 percent shooting and 59 points. He said the Hogs could have defended the 3 better, but added, "I swear they made four of them with one or two seconds left on the shot clock."

The most stunning of those were reserve guard John Griffin's 30-foot fling for a 37-31 lead with 13:32 to go, and Lee's dagger for a 53-46 lead at 3:43.

Still, Brewer responded with a deep 3 from the corner to get Arkansas within 53-49. Brewer made two free throws for 53-51, Lee made two for 55-51 and Modica meshed four in a row to tie the score.

Modica's tying free throws came after Hill was hurt while pulling down a defensive rebound.

"Steven fell awkwardly and tweaked his back," Heath said. "He had a sharp pain."

At least one Bison player thought Hill acted a bit so that Modica could shoot the free throws. But Modica, who came back out as soon as he made them, raised both arms to the UA fans behind Arkansas' bench.

Because Arkansas used the press to advantage in its comeback, a writer from Pennsylvania asked Heath if he had thought of using it more during the game.

"I don't think it's in our best interest to play that style for 40 minutes," Heath said. "I didn't want to fatigue two of my best scorers (Brewer, Modica) on defense. They play a lot of minutes."

Heath credited Bucknell with "chasing Brewer pretty good on screens.

"Maybe we should have tried to kick-start Ronnie for a 20- or 25-point game. He's so unselfish."

In the end, the Bison's smarts did matter.

"We had great recognition at the end of the game," Bettencourt said. "Donald got a rebound, looked for a good free throw shooter and found Abe. We came in expecting to beat Arkansas. I don't think this was too big an upset."

Flannery said he wanted to put "one-and-a-half men" on both Modica and Brewer, but by the end he said, "Brewer was the more aggressive so we wanted to put two men on him. He hit that big 3 in the corner in our face. That's what good players do."

Hill had 6 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks in one of his better games. He helped limit 6-11 Bison center Chris McNaughton to six points.

"When teams focus on McNaughton, we try to make them pay outside," Bettencourt said.

Flannery said rebounding was a key, and the Bison earned a 32-29 board advantage against the bigger Hogs.

"It comes down to wills, and these kids didn't quit," Flannery said.

Heath, who plans to attend a junior college tournament next week, said he would meet with the media to review the season one day during the week.

"These players have done a lot to bring a resurgence in our program, and we want to use this season as a launching pad," Heath said. "It's important to get a taste of the NCAA Tournament, and now I hope our kids are hungrier to go deeper in the tournament and stay there consistently."

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