For a kid who was less than a year old when Duke's Christian Laettner hit his famous turnaround jumper to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA regional final, Bucknell sophomore Mike Muscala sure pulled off one heck of a reenactment.
Trailing Richmond by a point and in-bounding the ball under its own basket with 1.7 seconds left in Sunday's game, Bucknell drew up a last-second Hail Mary play. Joe Willman played the role of Grant Hill and Muscala did his best Laettner impersonation, catching the inbound pass near the left elbow, spinning and sinking a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give Bucknell a 62-61 victory.
"As coach was drawing up the play in the huddle, he mentioned something about Laettner," Muscala said by phone Monday. "I didn't know my shot would draw so many comparisons to Laettner, but I knew it would be a pretty similar shot if I made it,"
It's pretty surreal for Muscala to hear his name alongside Laettner considering the only other game-winner the 6-foot-11 Bucknell big man had ever hit came at an AAU tournament when he was 15. The Roseville, Minn. native is Bucknell's leading scorer at 13.8 points per game, but he's not even a household name among hardcore college hoops fans, let alone casual ones.
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Bucknell actually had two opportunities to upset Atlantic 10 contender Richmond with the Laettner play thanks to the Spiders' dreadful 1-for-8 foul shooting over the final 2:58 of the game. The inbound pass sailed too long for Muscala and out of bounds on the initial attempt with 2.6 secons remaining, but the Bison got another chance still trailing by one because Richmond's Kevin Anderson missed a pair of free throws.
"I don't remember us ever getting that play to work in practice," Muscala said. "Luckily it worked last night."
Muscala's shot was eerily reminiscent of Laettner's, but there are some subtle differences.
In Laettner's case, 2.1 seconds remained on the clock prior to the inbound pass, giving the Duke star time to juke left and spin right before sinking the turnaround jumper. In Muscala's case, he spins directly left, rises and fires over the arms of a defender contesting the shot.
[Video: Impressive gravity-defying shot]
Muscala said he'll watch the replay of the Laettner shot again Monday night to check out the similarities and differences, but he's more than satisfied with his own game-winner.
"That's the biggest shot I've ever hit," he said. "To beat a good team like that at the end of a back-and-forth game, it's pretty emotional and pretty crazy."
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