LEWISBURG, Pa. - John Giannini's face turned as white as the Patriot League banners in the rafters as he screamed in disbelief at star guard Darnell Harris.
"We have the lead!" the La Salle coach roared.
Harris, who hit seven three-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points, inexplicably tackled Bucknell senior guard John Griffin with 8.6 seconds left and the visitors leading by one. The St. Joseph's Prep product calmly drilled both foul shots to lift the Bison to a stunning 67-66 victory over the Explorers last night at Sojka Pavilion. The Explorers (3-3) blew a double-digit lead for the fifth time this season, depriving themselves of their first three-game winning streak since the start of last season.
"Very typical. That's us. That is us," Giannini said, shortly after falling into an assistant coach's arms near the bench. "That is . . . what you saw is my Groundhog Day."
Griffin led Bucknell (3-4) with 21 points while shooting 6-for-14 from the field, and Patrick Behan and Justin Castleberry scored 18 points each. Behan also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.
The Explorers poured in 14 three-pointers but shot only 36.2 percent from the field. Ruben Guillandeaux added 11 points and Paul Johnson corraled nine rebounds.
La Salle started 1-for-8 from the field and didn't collect its second bucket until nearly 6 minutes into the contest. But the Explorers offset that abysmal start by shooting a blistering 9-for-14 from behind the arc in the first half, and took a 39-27 lead into the break.
Bucknell, which snapped a four-game skid, trailed, 64-55, with about 4 minutes remaining before unleashing an 8-0 run. The Bison followed a Harris airball with three-pointers by Griffin and Castleberry to narrow the deficit to a point and send the crowd cheering at a decibel level not heard since cheerleaders handed out free pizza in the first half.
"Our plan was to try and let them get ahead a little bit . . . and so they played right into our hands," Bucknell coach Pat Flannery said, laughing.
Yves Mekongo-Mbala connected on a pair of free throws to extend La Salle's lead to three, but Bucknell answered with a Todd O'Brien offensive rebound and putback with 43 seconds remaining.
With La Salle leading, 66-65, Harris missed a jump shot with 16 seconds left. Stephen Tyree secured the rebound and dished it to Griffin, who was fouled. After Griffin hit both shots to provide Bucknell with its first lead since midway through the first half, Guillandeaux missed a well-defended layup as time expired.
"That second half, that was the best we battled all year,'' Griffin said. "This is one hell of a win for our team, because that La Salle team is going to beat some people because of how hard they play.
* La Salle sophomore guard Kimmani Barrett served a one-game suspension as punishment for missing a team practice on Thursday. *