American University men's basketball played staunch defense on one of the best players in the Patriot League all night long, limiting Bucknell's Mike Muscala to just 6-of-18 shooting, but the senior big man's final shot with just 0.8 seconds left proved to be the difference on Wednesday night at Bender Arena, 56-55.
The Eagles (7-14, 2-4 PL) shot 47.8 percent from the field and despite trailing at the half, fought back against Bucknell (18-4, 5-1 PL) and led by seven points with 2:16 to play.
The Bison had one final chance with possession and 15.9 seconds remaining, trailing by one. Muscala had three chances, having his first rejected out of bounds by AU junior center Tony Wroblicky, but on the ensuing inbounds, Muscala was able to corral his initial miss and put Bucknell ahead for the first time since 18:20 in the second half.
Rookie Jesse Reed's three-quarter-length heave with just .8 seconds left on the clock was off the mark as Bucknell escaped with the win.
"I'm proud of the kids' effort tonight. Our theme has been getting better and we are getting better," said head coach Jeff Jones. "We talked about grinding games out but we need to finish better than we did."
American went toe-to-toe with Bucknell throughout the first half as the lead changed hands five times in the initial stanza with neither team leading by more than five at any point.
American took the lead late in the period on a jumper by senior Daniel Munoz with just 1:34 to play, but Muscala came back to score two-straight buckets to put the Bison back up by three points.
With just four seconds left in the first half, senior Stephen Lumpkins worked his way down low and drew the foul, knocking down two shots from the charity stripe to make it a one-point Bucknell advantage at the break.
American came out strong from the intermission and built a seven-point, 39-32, lead on senior Blake Jolivette's deep jumper as the shot clock went off.
Bucknell would come back to tie up the score at 41-all on Cameron Ayers' lay-in which forced an AU timeout at 10:49. It was sophomore John Schoof who broke the tie with a 3-pointer from the corner.
Fellow sophomore Kyle Kager added a triple of his own out of the eight-minute media timeout, which put the Eagles up, 48-43, before an offensive rebound and put-back by Wroblicky with 5:48 remaining put AU up by it's biggest margin of the game, 52-44.
Munoz's NBA-range 3-pointer with the shot-clock winding down put American up 55-48 with just over two minutes to play, but Bucknell scored the final eight points of the game to take the win.
Munoz finished with a team-high 13 points and four assists while Wroblicky led the team on the defensive end with eight rebounds, two steals and a block while chipping in seven points.
American plays host to Lafayette on Saturday, February 2, at 2 p.m., for Phil Bender Day! Be sure to get your tickets now to be part of AU's annual tradition. Tickets are still available to this game and to all AU home games by clicking here or by calling (202) 885-TIXX.