COLUMBIA, Mo. Matt Bell scored 20 points and Jarell Brown added 16 markers to help lead the Army men’s basketball team past Stetson, 80-68, on the first day of the John Thompson Foundation Classic Friday evening at Mizzou Arena. The Black Knights shot 56.8 percent from the floor en route to winning their season opener for the first time since defeating Columbia to begin the 2003-04 campaign.
After Stetson (0-1) jumped out to a quick 10-4 advantage, Army (1-0) responded with a 24-6 run over the next six minutes to assume a 28-16 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. The Black Knights’ burst was keyed by their hot shooting, as the team connected on their first nine shots from the field, including 6 of 6 from behind the three-point line. Bell scored 10 points during the surge, while Brown added six.
Army, which never trailed the rest of the game, stayed in control of the contest throughout the first stanza. The Black Knights opened up their biggest advantage of the half at 39-23 just minutes before halftime, and carried a 41-27 edge into the halftime locker room.
The Black Knights shot 58.3 percent in the first half, including 7 of 9 from three-point range. Army’s 41 first half points marked the most since scoring 45 in the first half against Polytechnic on Nov. 18, 2005.
Army outscored Stetson, 6-0, to start the second half as the Black Knights built a 47-27 edge four minutes into the period. The Black Knights refused to relent, and their lead remained in excess of 10 points throughout the duration of the second half.
Cory Sinning added nine points and five rebounds, while Corban Bates chipped in nine points and seven caroms.
For the first time since Dec. 31, 2005, five Army players connected on three-pointers as Brown, Bell, Bates, Marshall Jackson and Grant Carter all hit treys. In all, 10 Black Knights scored points.
Army freshmen Cleveland Richard and Chris Walker both started for the Black Knights, while classmate Marcus Nelson saw his first career action in the second half. Walker converted his first career basket early in the second half on an offensive rebound put-back lay-up. He finished the night with six points.
Bell moved into 27th place on Army’s career scoring chart. The senior has scored 934 points and needs just 20 more to pass Jim Oxley for 26th place.
The win was Army’s first-ever over Stetson, and it evens the all-time series between the two teams at 1-1.
Army’s 12-point margin of victory is its largest since defeating New York Maritime by 17 points (53-36) last season.
Gabe McMillen led Stetson with 20 points, while Eric Diaz and Garfield Blair each chipped in with 16 points apiece.
The John Thompson Foundation Classic continues tomorrow (Nov. 11) with Army set to play the host Missouri Tigers. Tip off is slated for 4 p.m. (EST).