Final Statistics: Lafayette 77, Army 68
EASTON, Pa. – Lafayette (14-7, 5-1) maintained its hold on first place in the Patriot League standings with a 77-68 victory over Army in men’s basketball action at the Kirby Sports Center on Wednesday night. The Black Knights (12-8, 2-4) have now lost back-to-back league games for the first time this season.
Senior F Cleveland Richard matched his season high with 20 points, 16 of which came in the second half, to lead Army’s offense. Sophomore G Julian Simmons added 18 points, 11 after the break, including four three-pointers. Senior C Chris Walker paced the squad with six rebounds, while senior G Josh Miller handed out a team-high four assists.
Miller was credited with two steals, tying the Academy all-time record. Miller and George Tatum now share the mark with 143.
Jared Mintz led three Leopards in double figures with 20 points, including a 10-for-10 showing at the foul line. Ryan Willen added 17 points, while Jim Mower drilled five three-pointers en route to 15 markers.
Army outshot the Leopards 45.9 percent to 44.7 percent, but Lafayette, the best three-point shooting team in the league, hit nine of its 20 long-range attempts. Army was just 7 for 21 from deep. The Leopards also held a 26-5 edge at the foul line, shooting 31 free throws compared to the Black Knights’ nine attempts.
The Black Knights held a slim 33-32 edge on the glass, but could not overcome 15 turnovers that led to 18 Lafayette points.
Despite not making a field goal for the first six minutes, four seconds, the Leopards jumped out to a 5-0 lead, all on free throws by Willen. Thompson snapped Army’s opening scoring drought with a basket with 17:17 left in the opening half. The bucket started a 10-0 run by the Black Knights that featured five field goals by five different players.
Army led 10-5 with 13:56 left when Gruner scored the Leopards’ first basket of the game, kickstarting a 14-3 run that included nine straight points. Mower capped the spurt with a three-pointer to put the Leopards up 19-13 with 9:42 left. Army closed within 21-17, but Lafayette got hot from long range. The Leopards hit three triples as part of a 10-5 run that gave them a 31-22 edge with 1:49 to go. Army was able to cut its deficit to seven points twice and went into the locker room down 33-26.
Eight different Black Knights scored in the first half, led by seven points from Simmons. The Lafayette starting five accounted for 28 points in the first half. Mower had nine on three three-pointers, while Willen and Mintz each had seven.
Despite an 0-for-5 start, Army shot 42.9 percent in the first 20 minutes (12-28). Lafayette hit only 37.0 percent from the floor (10-27), but made four three-pointers. The Leopards scored 11 points on 10 Army first-half turnovers.
The Leopards opened the second half on a 10-4 run, including back-to-back threes by Willen to take a 43-30 lead with 15:35 left in the game. Army scored seven of the next nine points, five of them by Richard, to close within 45-37 with 13:02 on the clock, but Mower three-pointers bookended an 11-4 spurt by the Leopards that gave them their largest lead of the game at 56-41 at the 10:33 mark.
Army had one last run left, scoring the next 10 points to close within five at 56-51 on a layup by Richard with 7:27 to go. That was as close as the Black Knights would come, however. Darion Benbow ended the Leopards’ three-minute, 16-second scoring drought and started an 11-3 run that put them up 67-54 at the 4:12 mark.
The Black Knights were able to close within nine points with 1:56 to go, but Lafayette hit eight straight foul shots to keep control and go on to the 77-68 victory.
Lafayette’s 77 points marked the most allowed by Army versus a Patriot League opponent since a 77-57 loss at Lehigh on Jan. 17, 2009.
The Black Knights wrap up their stretch of three straight road games on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Bucknell. Tip-off at Sojka Pavilion is set for 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Tyrell Thompson made his first start since the second game of the season … Thompson was with the first unit in place of Jeremy Hence who started the previous three games … Wednesday’s loss snapped Army’s three-game winning streak against the Leopards … Army dropped to 0-5 on the season when allowing 70-or-more points … the loss marked the first time since the 2006-07 season that the Black Knights did now win the game immediately following a loss to Navy … Army is now 1-4 when shooting at least 20 three-pointers … the Black Knights have been outscored by 107 points at the free throw line in its eight losses … the Black Knights are 4-7 when committing at least 15 turnovers … Cleveland Richard has made 5 of his last 11 three-pointers … Marcus Nelson closed within three blocked shots of breaking the Army career record … Ella Ellis scored nine points, his most since the SMU game on Dec. 30 and just one off his career high … Army has been outscored in the second half in back-to-back games for the first time this season.