EMMITSBURG -- The last thing Jim Phelan wanted Mount St. Mary's to do this season was to continue playing the way it did at the end of 1990-91.
The Mountaineers dropped their final six games last season, and the streak reached nine last night at the Knott Arena, as Bucknell (2-1) rolled to a 97-67 victory. It's the longest winless stretch for Mount St. Mary's (0-3) since 1952 and the worst in Phelan's 38 years here.
"We've got a dual problem," said Phelan, who's been looking for career win No. 688 since beating Wagner on Feb. 7. "Our guard situation is in bad shape, and their front line had over 40 of their 49 first-half points. We need to get quicker, and the good thing about this is that I got a look at some of our faster players."
There were nights last February when the Mountaineers went through the motions, knowing that they were completing their probationary status in Division I and ineligible for the Northeast Conference tournament. There's supposed to be more to play for this season, but Phelan saw few moments of inspiration in losses at Maryland and Delaware State, and last night's home opener -- the Mountaineers' only Knott Arena appearance in their first seven games -- was more of the same.
With junior forward Mike Bright cramming 17 of his 23 points into the first 14 minutes, Bucknell ran off leads of 19-7, 35-18 and 47-24. Two minutes into the second half, it was 57-29, and Bison coach Charlie Woollum was mercifully emptying his bench soon thereafter. Senior guard Bill Courtney had 22 and senior forward Patrick King had 19 for the Bison, who shot 54.2 percent from the field and had a 45-31 rebounding advantage.
None of the combinations Phelan tried worked against a team that lost by three at Georgia Sunday. He used his third starting lineup in as many games, going for a big look, with 7-footer Chris Cavanagh and 6-11 Dan Kalinowski up front, fellow seniors Bobby Hill and Jeff Hall on the wings and junior Kevin Booth at guard.
Booth's comeback from a knee injury that sidelined him nearly all of last season has been slowed by tendinitis in his other knee. He had seven points on 3-for-9 shooting, dropping his seasonal percentage to 39.4. Freshman forward Phil Galvin led the Mountaineers with 11.
Phelan doesn't want to replay last season, when he used 17 different starting lineups during a 8-19 lapse that was the Mountaineers' worst finish since 1972. His backcourt concerns are compounded by the fact that sophomore point guard Dave Kapaona is out six to eight weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Mount St. Mary's hopes to end its skid tomorrow (6 p.m.) against Loyola in the semifinals of the Beltway Classic at UMBC.