LEWISBURG, Pa. Chris McNaughton scored a game-high 23 points and Bucknell used a 12-0 run in the second half to pull away from Army in a 68-47 victory, Sunday in the Patriot League semifinals at Sojka Pavilion.
McNaughton, a 6-11 senior, set the school’s record for games played in a career with 124, and shot 10 of 13 from the field as the Bison moved into the Patriot League finals for the third straight season.
Bucknell, now 22-8 and riding a 14-game winning streak, will play at Holy Cross Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the finals. The game will be televised on ESPN2 as part of “Championship Week.” Holy Cross, the No. 1 seed, beat American 55-53 in the other semifinal.
Army, the No. 6 seed, ends its season at 15-16, with the most wins in school history since the 1984-85 team won 16 contests.
Matt Brown scored 13 points in his final game in a Black Knights uniform while Jarell Brown added 17. The Black Knights shot 44.4% in the first half but made just four of 19 shots in the final 20 minutes. It was also the final game for Marshall Jackson, Cory Sinning and Jimmy Sewell. Sinning had a bucket and Sewell a pair of blocks.
“Our seniors have just invested, invested, invested,” Army head coach Jim Crews said. “We have always had what I consider a good program in terms of academics, following the rules, being gentlemen and being good leaders. These guys have climbed that mountain and we had a pretty good darn team this year. There have been a lot of dark days where they have really persevered and never made excuses when it wasn’t going well collectively or individually and I could never be prouder and I want to thank them for what they have done for Army basketball.”
Army trailed by eight at halftime but cut the deficit to five when Cleveland Richard hit a three and a free throw and Brown made two free throws to made it 43-38 with 16:27 left in the game.
The Bison, the No. 2 seed, responded with a 12-0 run over the next seven minutes to take a 57-38 lead with nine minutes left in the game.
From there, the Bison cruised and improved to 1-5 against Army in the playoffs.
Bucknell took an eight-point lead at halftime, thanks in large part to McNaughton, who scored 14 points in the first 20 minutes.
Bell, who had 13 points in the first half, got Army off to a great start, scoring the teams first six points and giving Army an early 6-4 lead. The Black Knights answered McNaughton’s baskets with scores from Bell and Brown, who also had 13 in the first half.
“I thought our guys did a good job in the first half of playing off each other and going to the inside and the outside,” Crews said. “And we had some good opportunities that we did not quite finish. We missed some open shots and layups. We executed, we just didn’t get it done.”
Bell hit a three with 4:54 left with a defender in his face to put Army ahead 29-28. The Bison, though, ended the half with an 11-4 run and a 40-32 lead at halftime.
Richards cut into the deficit early in the second half when he drained a three-pointer for his first points of the game. He followed two minutes later with a free throw. Donald Brown, who finished with 15 points in his second game back after missing seven contests with an injury, made a three-point play to keep the lead at seven.
Brown then made both free throws to make it 43-38. Brown scored on a tip in, McNaughton scored four points, John Griffin drained a three and Stephen Tyree had a steal and dunk to increase the advantage to double digits as Bucknell won going away.