Bucknell had a chance.
Phil Pressey missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, meaning that the Bison had the ball down 64-63 at No. 12 Missouri and a chance to take the final shot. But Mike Muscala stepped out of bounds with three seconds left, giving the ball back to the Tigers and, essentially, ending any realistic shot at the upset.
The loss will undoubtedly be a disappoint for a Bucknell team that undoubtedly needs to earn their league’s automatic bid — over CJ McCollum’s Lehigh team — to make the NCAA tournament now, but Muscala has no reason to be ashamed. He finished with 25 points, 14 boards, four assists and two blocks, grabbing a trio of key offensive rebounds in the final minutes. He did everything that he could to keep the Bison close, and likely earned himself some NBA money in the process.
If anything, Bucknell’s performance only confirmed the fact that you absolutely do not want to see this team in the first round of the NCAA tournament, especially on nights when Bryson Johnson and Cameron Ayers are hitting shots from the perimeter.
For Missouri, this was yet another concerning performance.
Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers may just be the best 1-2 punch in the SEC. They are terrific, even if Pressey has a tendency to take some bad shots from time to time.
But the fact that Alex Oriakhi was so thoroughly outplayed and the struggles that Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown had from the perimeter — the Tigers are going to be in big, big trouble on the nights those two combine to go 2-19 from the floor — makes Missouri look quite vulnerable.
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Then again, in a year like this, who isn’t?