Jordan Burns had a career-high 35 points and Will Rayman added 18 to lead top-seeded Colgate to a 94-80 victory over No. 2 Bucknell in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament, giving the Raiders their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1996.
The victory before a standing-room only, overflow crowd, avenged last year’s championship game loss at Bucknell. The Bison won last year’s title matchup 83-54.
Rapolas Ivanauskas added 12 points for the Raiders (24-10, 14-5 Patriot League), who have now won a school-record 11 straight games.
Kimbal Mackenzie led Bucknell (21-12, 13-6) with 23 points. Nate Sestina had 21 before fouling out.
Burns hit 6 of 9 from 3-point range and 10 of 16 overall. Colgate hit 12 of 21 on 3s and 30 of 52 from the field for 58 percent.
Colgate held a 43-30 halftime lead, but Mackenzie almost single-handedly brought Bucknell back early in the second half. He hit his first four 3s and scored 16 of Bucknell’s first 18 points after intermission to bring the Bison to 50-48 with just under 16 minutes to go.
Colgate answered with an emphatic run, scoring six straight as part of a 23-10 spurt to take a 73-58 lead with 8:25 remaining. Burns scored 11 points during the spurt, including consecutive 3s in a 40-second span. A hook shot by Rayman gave Colgate its biggest lead at 78-59 with 6:50 to go and the Raiders were never headed.
Colgate raced to the 13-point halftime lead thanks to Burns and Ivanauskas, who scored 19 and nine points, respectively. The Raiders held a 21-15 lead with a little more than 10 minutes to go in the half when Burns, who averaged 15.1 points during the season, went to work.
The sophomore guard scored 13 of Colgate’s next 15 points in less than a three-minute span, nine of those points coming on three 3s as the Raiders extended to a 36-19 margin with less than six minutes to go. Burns shot 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Colgate hit 6 of 13 from 3 and held Bucknell to just 4 of 15 from deep and 11 of 32 shooting overall. The Raiders also dominated on the boards in the period, outrebounding Bucknell 23-15.
NCAA Automatic Bids
Bradley, Missouri Valley Conference
Colgate, Patriot League
Fairleigh Dickinson, Northeast Conference
Gardner-Webb, Big South Conference
Iona, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Liberty, Atlantic Sun Conference
Murray State, Ohio Valley Conference
Northeastern, Colonial Athletic Association
Northern Kentucky, Horizon League
North Dakota State, Summit League
Saint Mary’s (Calif.), West Coast Conference
Wofford, Southern Conference