Army 76, Bucknell 65
WEST POINT, N.Y. Junior F Cleveland Richard scored a career-high 28 points, including 20 in the second half, to lead the Army men’s basketball team to a 76-65 win over Bucknell on Saturday afternoon at Christl Arena. It was the Black Knights’ season-best third straight victory.
Richard missed only four shots all afternoon, going 9 for 12 from the field, including hitting all three of his shots from three-point range, and 7 of 8 from the free throw line. The Houston native also added three rebounds, two assists and a steal in a team-high 38 minutes of work. It was the highest-scoring game for an Army player since Jarell Brown dropped 35 in a 69-67 win at Navy on Jan. 27, 2008.
“To tell you the truth, I really don’t remember too much,” Richard said. “We played well on defense, and the next thing you know I look up and I’m scoring. I think I’m learning the system a little bit better.”
Army (7-13, 3-3) has now won three straight regular-season games for the first time since 2006-07 campaign. The Black Knights are off to their best conference start since winning three of their first six that same season. It is the first time since Army joined the Patriot League that the Black Knights have defeated the Bison three straight times.
Bucknell (5-16, 2-5) remained winless on the road, losing their 12th game of the season away from Sojka Pavilion.
“Our kids played good basketball,” Army head coach Jim Crews said. “The first 10 minutes of the second half, we got out and ran and got some stops defensively. They got us out of our rhythm a little later in the second half, but we corrected ourselves. It was a great win and a really good week for us.”
In addition to Richard, junior G Josh Miller tallied 13 points and tied for the team lead with six rebounds. Miller did most of his damage from the free throw line, connecting on 7 of 11 attempts. Junior G Marcus Nelson also pulled down six rebounds and handed out a game-high five assists. Defensively, he blocked three shots, his second-highest total of the season.
The Bison had three players in double figures led by Darryl Shazier’s 21 points, which included five three-pointers. Justin Castleberry added 15 markers, while Patrick Behan added 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Army held Bucknell’s G.W. Boon, who had been averaging more than 14 points per game during Patriot League play, scoreless.
Army started the game 5 of 18 from the floor, but it 19 of its last 31 shots to finish the game at 49.0 percent. It is the third straight game the Black Knights made at least 46 percent of their shots, a first this season. The Army defense limited the Bison to 37.7 percent from the field, including a 6 of 20 showing from three-point range.
Much of the game was played at the free throw line. Army hit 24 of 30 freebies, while the Bison were 19 of 22 at the stripe. A combined 41 fouls were called in the contest.
Bucknell held an early 5-4 lead when freshman G Julian Simmons hit a three-pointer to give Army its first lead at 7-5. The Black Knights led 9-7 before Shazier banked in a three to put the Bison back on top by a point with 12:53 left in the half. The bucket started an 8-2 run that staked the Bison to a 15-11 advantage.
Army responded with six straight points as part of a 10-2 run that gave the Black Knights a 21-17 lead with 4:21 left in the half. Bucknell tied the game for the fourth time with four consecutive free throws, but Sizemore hit three straight shots and Richard knocked down back-to-back buckets as part of a 10-0 run that gave Army its largest lead of the half at 31-21 with less than a minute to go and put the Black Knights ahead for good. Bucknell scored on its final possession of the half to cut the deficit to eight points at intermission.
Army finished the half at 43.3 percent from the floor. The Black Knights’ defense limited the Bucknell to just 36.4 percent from the field and turned the Bison over 10 times. Richard spearheaded the first-half defensive effort by drawing two charges and a five-second call.
“We were supposed to keep them out the middle,” Richard said. “We just kept them on the wings, and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of charges.”
Miller re-established a double-digit lead on the Black Knights’ opening possession of the second half, snapping an 0 for 6 start from the field. He gave Army a 35-23 lead with a layup at the 19-minute mark before Shazier scored six of the next eight points on two triples to trim the Black Knights’ lead to 37-29 with 17:17 left.
After the teams exchanged free throws, Bucknell was called for intentional foul on a breakaway by Richard. He turned the opportunity into a five-point possession, knocking down both foul shots and a three-pointer on the ensuing play. Richard’s outburst started a 7-0 run that made the score 45-30 with 14:41 to go. Richard also assisted on senior F Kenny Brewer’s fastbreak layup that finished off the run.
The Bison cut their deficit to 13 points before Richard was true from three-point range to push the Black Knights to a 50-34 lead with 11:03 left. Bucknell refused to cave, scoring the next seven points to claw back within nine. Richard halted the Bison’s momentum with five straight points, including his third triple, to extend the Army advantage back to 55-41 with 8:28 to go.
Again the Bison used the free throw line to get back into the game, scoring eight of their points in a 12-2 run from the stripe and pull within four at 57-53.
A free throw by Brewer stemmed the momentum and started a run of five straight points, highlighted by a three-point play by Nelson that gave Army a 63-53 lead with 3:22 left. Shazier hit his fifth three-pointer of the game to pull the Bison back within seven, and Behan hit a pair of foul shots to make it a five-point game with 2:28 to go. Army caught a break on its next possession when Miller was able to corral a near turnover and turn it into a three-point play to extend Army back to an eight-point lead at 66-58.
Behan hit a jumper and the Black Knights came up empty on their next possession, but Nelson blocked a Castleberry three-point attempt to keep the Bison at bay. Miller was fouled on the rebound and drained a pair of free throws with 1:18 left.
Behan made 1 of 2 at the line to make it a seven-point game, but Brewer nailed both of his free throws on the other end to push the Black Knights back in front by nine points with 1:03 to go. Army hit four of its next six foul shots to re-take a double-digit lead. Bucknell would get within nine points with 11.6 seconds left, but the Miller drained two more from the line to give Army the 76-65 win.
Army has now won five of its last seven Patriot League games at Christl Arena. Saturday’s win wrapped up a stretch of five home games in the teams’ first six conference outings.
The Black Knights begin a stretch of six of eight games on the road on Wednesday, Feb. 4 when they travel to defending league champion American. Tip-off at Bender Arena is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Eagles took all three meetings with the Black Knights last season, including a victory in the Patriot League semifinals.
Game Notes: Both the Army and Bucknell coaching staff wore sneakers in honor of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend ... Army’s 31-23 lead at intermission marked the first time this season the Black Knights have led at halftime in three straight games ... Marcus Nelson was 3 for 3 from the line, marking the first time since the Princeton game on Nov. 23 that he made three consecutive foul shots. He entered the game 12 for 31 (.387) from the line for the season ... Army was outrebounded for the 10th straight game ... The Black Knights tied their season-high with 76 points and are averaging 69.7 points during their winning streak ... Eight of the nine players that saw court time scored at least five points ... The inside combination of Chris Walker (6 points), Doug Williams (6 points) and Kenny Brewer (7 points) totaled 19 points, their highest combined scoring output since Dec. 30 at Florida Gulf Coast when Brewer netted 16 points. It is the first time since the win at Bryant on Dec. 8 that all three scored at least six points in the same game .... Richard has scored in double figures in a career-high four straight games. In the two games this week, he averaged 22.0 points and shot 75.0 percent from the field (15 of 20), including makes on all four of his three-point attempts ... The Black Knights are now 14-5 in their last 19 games when scoring at least 70 points ... Nelson needs only five more steals to become the first player in Army history with 200 career assists, 100 career steals and 40 career blocked shots ... Army has not won four straight since a six-game winning streak during the 2006-07 season. The Black Knights have never won four straight Patriot League games.