With holiday spirit in the air, the men’s basketball team learned an important lesson against Bucknell: there’s no place for giving on the court.

In the second half, the Elis looked poised for a win, having rallied from a five-point half-time deficit to lead the Bison 48-41 with 6:52 remaining. While the Bison used four free throws to draw within striking distance, it was the Bulldogs’ performance from the charity stripe that gave the game away, gift-wrapped. In the final 2:45 of regulation, the Elis were a frigid one-for-seven from the line.

“I blame our loss on my failure to hit at least one of my free throws in the end [of regulation],” center Dominick Martin ’06 said. “That was completely my fault.”

Limited essentially to second half play because of foul trouble, Martin missed four of his last five free throws, negating his overall 8-for-12 effort from the line.

Without Martin working the low post in the first half, the Bulldog offense was stymied, shooting just 23 percent from the field. Despite the low output, the Elis were able to stay in the game with a hard-nosed defensive effort, holding the Bison to just 20 percent from beyond the arc and leading-scorer Kevin Bettencourt to 0-for-5 shooting.

“I think we played great defense,” forward Dexter Upshaw ’06 said. “[But] there were certain moments in the game when we lost focus.”

Aside from the lamentable missed free throws, two other late-game lapses occurred in the final minute of regulation, as the Bulldogs allowed Bison forward Charles Lee two open looks from beyond the arc. Lee seized the opportunity, draining both threes within a matter of eight seconds. Just a minute into overtime, the Bulldogs were hit hard when Martin was whistled for his fifth foul. With Upshaw already fouled out, Juan Wheat ’06 was called into action. Wheat, who typically contributes about 11 minutes per game, said his job is primarily to defend, rebound and enable guards Edwin Draughan ’05, Alex Gamboa ’05, and Martin to score.

“I could honestly care less if I scored a single time on the floor,” Wheat said. “I feel confident in [their shooting abilities] because I know they can score.”

Draughan returned the favor, feeding Wheat as he cut to the basket to keep the Elis within a possession, 65-62. Aside from a key three-point play from forward Sam Kaplan ’07, the Elis had no answers for Bucknell with Martin out of the game.

In the end, however, the Elis beat themselves.

“We were out-rebounded 48-36, but I don’t think that’s what killed us,” Martin said. “[It was] our shot selection, our missed free throws, and [our low shooting] percentage from the field.”

The Bulldogs basically handed the game to the Bison, making the loss particularly irksome, Wheat said.

“I felt like the game was in our hands for the most part,” Wheat said. “It’s not fun to lose if you’ve worked hard for 40 minutes.”