Army 70, Bucknell 53
LEWISBURG, Pa. Army opened the second half on a 19-2 run to break open a two-point game and cruised to a 70-53 win over Bucknell in Patriot League men’s basketball action at Sojka Pavilion on Saturday night. The victory improved the Black Knights record to 10-18 overall and 6-8 in the conference and clinched the fourth seed and a quarterfinal home game in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament.
Wednesday’s home game against fifth-seeded Lehigh marks Army’s first game at Christl Arena in the postseason since the current format of higher seeds hosting was put into effect. It will mark Army’s first Patriot League Tournament game as the higher seed.
Freshman G Julian Simmons led the Black Knights with a career-high 21 points. The rookie fired in a career-best five three-pointers and grabbed a career-high five rebounds. Simmons was one of four Army starters in double figures. Junior G Josh Miller tied his season high with 18 points, nine of which came from the foul line. Senior C Doug Williams scored a season-high 14 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Junior F Cleveland Richard chipped in with 12 points, his 10th double-digit game in the last 12 outings. It was the first time since the Brown game on Nov. 26 that Army had as many as four players score at least 10 points.
Bucknell’s (7-22, 4-10) Patrick Behan led all scorers with 23 points, 17 of which came in the first half, and completed the double-double with a game-high 12 rebounds. Behan was 6 for 10 from the floor and 5 of 6 at the line in the first 20 minutes, but mustered only two field goals and two free throws after halftime. It was his fifth consecutive 20-point game. Justin Castleberry scored 11 points for the Bison.
The Army defense limited Bucknell to only 30.4 percent from the field and just 21.1 percent from three-point range. The Black Knights outrebounded the Bison, 41-38. It was only the fifth time this season that Army held the edge on the glass. Army shot 41.8 percent for the game, including 50.0 percent in the second half, and was 9 of 18 from three-point range.
The first half was nip-and-tuck the whole way with neither team leading by more than five points. Army jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Bison scored the next five points to take their first lead of the half. Richard hit his first three-pointer to ignite an 8-0 run that included five points by Simmons that gave the Black Knights their largest lead at 10-5 with 16:13 to go.
Behan converted a three-point play to turn the tide and start a 7-0 Bucknell run that pushed the Bison back in front by a bucket. Williams hit his first basket of the game to stem the momentum and tie the game at 12-12. Bucknell quickly regained a two-point advantage, but the Black Knights scored the next five points with Simmons’ second three-pointer giving Army a 17-14 lead.
Simmons’ third triple of the half pushed the Black Knights ahead by four points at 22-18, but a three-pointer by Castelberry was part of five straight points for the Bison. Bucknell held on to its one point advantage at 25-24 until Richard stroked Army’s fifth three-pointer of the half to push the Black Knights back in front, 27-25, with 1:50 to go. Castleberry’s leaner in the lane tied it, but Williams’ final field goal of the first 20 minutes pushed Army back in front. Neither team scored for the remainder of the half as the Black Knights took a 29-27 lead into intermission.
Behan led all scorers with 17 of Bucknell’s 27 first-half points. The rest of the Bison scored just 10 points on 3 of 16 from the field.
Simmons led Army with 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting, including three makes from long range. Williams nearly doubled his season scoring average in the first half with eight points.
Miller came out firing in the second half, starting the decisive run with a three-pointer on the Black Knights’ first possession to stretch the lead to five points. After a quick basket by Bucknell, Army reeled off the next 16 points to take a 48-29 lead with 14:37 to go. The final six points came on back-to-back three-pointers by Simmons.
Bucknell scored the next five points to make it a 14-point game before a jumper by Richard ended a five-minute scoring drought for the Black Knights and re-established a 16-point margin with 9:37 left. Army pushed its cushion back to 19 points at 59-40 before Darryl Shazier and Castelberry drained back-to-back triples to bring the Bison within 13 points with 5:30 to go. Miller hit a jumper with the shot clock winding down to turn the momentum back to the Black Knights as Army outscored the Bison 9-7 over the remainder of the game. All of Army’s final nine points came from the free throw line.
Army’s six Patriot League wins ties the program’s best showing and marks the first time the Black Knights have reached that mark in consecutive seasons. The win was also the Black Knights’ second straight road win after five consecutive losses away from West Point.
Army will host Lehigh in the Patriot League quarterfinal on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Tickets are available now at www.goARMYsports.com and can be purchased by phone beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, March 1 by calling 1-877-TIX-ARMY. Wednesday will mark the third straight season that the Black Knights and Mountain Hawks have met in the Patriot League quarterfinals. Army took the previous two meetings, both in Bethlehem.
The other first round matchups include No. 1 American versus No. 8 Lafayette, Nov. 2 Holy Cross hosting No. 7 Bucknell and No. 3 Navy taking on No. 6 Colgate.
Game Notes: Army scored at least 70 points in back-to-back games for the first time this season ... The Black Knights tied their season high with 41 rebounds ... Army was 15 for 23 from the line, improving their record to 17-8 when shooting at least 15 free throws and 13-4 when making at least 13 foul shots in the last two seasons ... Cleveland Richard has scored in double figures a team-high 18 times ... Julian Simmons’ five three-pointers were a season high by an Army player ... Saturday’s game was Jim Crews’ 700th game as a head coach ... The Black Knights have now defeated Bucknell four straight times for the first time since taking the opening 10 games of the series, which began in 1930 ... Army has scored at least 70 points in five of its six Patriot League wins ... The Black Knights are now 17-5 in their last 22 games when scoring at least 70 points ... Army has won at least 10 games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1982-85 ... Army is now 8-1 in the last two seasons when Doug Williams scores at least 10 point. Army is 12-8 in the last three years when Williams, Kenny Brewer or Chris Walker reach double digits.