WEST POINT, N.Y. Keith Simmons scored a game-high 26 points and Torey Thomas chipped in 14 points and a game-high seven assists as Holy Cross survived a scare from Army, defeating the Black Knights in overtime, 70-54, Tuesday evening at Christl Arena.
Army (13-11, 3-6 Patriot League) led for the majority of the second half, but needed an acrobatic shot from Jarell Brown with 0.5 seconds left to send the contest to an extra session.
Holy Cross (19-6, 10-0 Patriot League) scored the first 12 points of overtime to assume a 64-52 advantage at the 1:17 mark. The Crusaders, who were a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor in overtime, outscored the Black Knights 18-2 in the extra session as they escaped West Point with the victory.
After Thomas knocked down a couple of free throws to begin the period, Simmons followed with a thunderous two-hand slam dunk and Tim Clifford connected on a three-pointer to put Holy Cross up by seven points at the 3:02 mark. A triple by Pat Doherty and a lay-up by Clifford capped the Crusaders’ scoring spurt, which all but ended Army’s upset bid.
Army head coach Jim Crews lauded the effort of his team.
“We did a lot of good things defensively,” mentioned Crews. “We got down 15-6 and our kids kept battling back. We were just one play away from getting away with (a win). I was pleased with the kids; I was disappointed with the outcome, but we’re fighting the right fight. We’ll keep fighting.”
The second half was an exciting 20 minutes of basketball, which featured three ties and five lead changes. Holy Cross led 22-21 at halftime, and the Crusaders quickly increased their lead to 26-21 within the first minute of the stanza. A 6-0 Army spurt gave the Black Knights their first lead of the second half at 27-26 with 13:45 to play.
After Holy Cross grabbed a 31-27 lead at the 13:06 mark, Josh Miller knocked down a pair of three-pointers and Brown scored seven points to fuel a 13-2 Army run that gave the Black Knights their largest lead of the game at 40-33 with 8:05 to play.
A 10-4 Crusader run trimmed Army’s lead to 44-43 at the 4:47 mark. After the teams traded baskets, Brown nailed a deep three-pointer with the shot clock running down to bump Army’s edge to 49-45 with just over three minutes to go.
Holy Cross battled back as Simmons converted a pair of free throws and then hit a lay-up as the Crusaders tied the score at 49-49 with 2:10 remaining.
Each team dropped in a free throw before Simmons connected on a short jumper with 15 seconds left to give Holy Cross its first lead since midway through the period, 52-50. On Army’s ensuing possession, Brown drove the lane and sank a tough running scoop shot just before time expired.
Like the second stanza, the first half included three ties and five lead changes. Army led 6-5 at the 14:32 mark, before a 10-0 Holy Cross run gave the Crusaders their largest lead of the half at 15-6 with 10:06 remaining to play before halftime.
Army outscored Holy Cross 15-5 over the next 9:43 to grab a brief 21-20 lead. The lead was short-lived as Thomas hit a jumper with seven seconds to play to give the Crusaders a tenuous 22-21 lead at intermission.
Army limited Holy Cross to 30.4 percent shooting from the floor in the opening half. The Crusaders connected on 50.0 percent of their shots in the second stanza and finished at 46.0 percent for the game.
Army hit 33.3 percent of its field goals. Holy Cross outrebounded Army, 37-26.
Brown paced Army with a team-high 21 points. Matt Bell added 12 markers, while Josh Miller chipped in a career-high 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Army will begin a three-game road trip on Saturday, Feb. 10, when the Black Knights travel to Bethlehem, Pa., to take on Lehigh. Tip off from Stabler Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.