The non-conference season for Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen and the Bison was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
“We’ve had some really good performances, and we’ve had some less than great ones,” said Paulsen, whose team went 5-8 during the non-conference play. “We played a really challenging schedule in terms of who and amount of games. We have to use it as a learning device and stay positive. It will help us in league play.”
Paulsen certainly did challenge his team with the non-conference schedule he put together this year. After opening the season with a three-point victory over Marist, the team took on No. 24 Michigan and No. 12 Villanova. A few weeks later, they hosted Penn State, then went back on the road to face a tough Columbia team, and wrapped up non-conference play on the road against Wake Forest and Siena.
But while the Bison struggled to string together wins, according to Paulsen, they made several big strides in other areas, chief among them finding out who their go-to player would be: 6-foot-5-inch guard Chris Haas. Haas, a Pellston, Michigan native, leads the team at 16.9 points per game, and is shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, 41.8 percent from downtown and 88.3 percent from the floor.
Paulsen also seems to have found his supporting cast, with a pair of freshmen playing big roles. Local product J.C. Show, a 6’2” guard from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, ranks second on the team in scoring at 7.5 points per game, and freshman center Nana Foulland a powerful and explosive 6’9” 220 pound center, is right behind him at 7.4 points per game. Foulland is shooting 50.6 percent from the floor and ranks second on the team in rebounds at 4.7. As is the case with any freshmen, Show and Foulland have had an equal amount of growth spurts and growing pains, but their talent has been apparent.
“We have two freshmen, they’ve been good, but they’re freshman so they’re going to be up and down,” said Paulsen.
During their better moments, both Show and Foulland have shown flashes that indicate success in the future.
“J.C. Show had his best game at Siena,” said Paulsen. “He can really shoot, he can score in a variety of ways and brings real toughness.”
“Nana Foulland gives us legit low-post threat, when he’s playing well and consistently, can score around basket and gives team consistency.”
“We have to get better defensively, and become a more consistent offensive team,” said Paulsen. “Finding consistency in scoring is going to be a process as we develop them and get returning guys to contribute. When we’ve struggled it’s because we don’t have a consistent second scorer to support Haas.”
But when the Bison tipped off their conference slate on New Year’s Eve against defending Patriot League Champion American, Paulsen found something else: A complete team effort in a complete game, ending in a resounding 57-47 win in which Bucknell outplayed the Eagles in every facet.
Maybe there was something to that tough non-conference schedule after all.