Second Half Struggles Doom Black Knights At Bucknell

Final Statistics: Bucknell 55, Army 48

LEWISBURG, Pa. – Army went 10 minutes and 13 seconds in the second half without a field goal and scored just eight points in the final 8:33 as Bucknell (9-14, 3-3) pulled away for a 55-48 victory in Patriot League men’s basketball action on Saturday night at Sojka Pavilion. The Black Knights (12-9, 2-5) have now lost a season-high three straight games, while the Bison have won three in a row.

The loss snapped Army’s 11-game winning streak when allowing less than 60 points. It was the fewest points allowed in a loss since a 55-53 defeat at Colgate on Feb. 7, 2009.

The game was tied at halftime, and the Black Knights scored the first five points of the second half, but an 11-2 Bucknell run put the Bison on top for good. Sophomore G Julian Simmons pulled Army within two points at 39-37 with 10:22 left, but the Black Knights missed their next 12 shots. Simmons’ bucket with just under 12 seconds left stopped the 10-plus minute field goal drought.

Senior F Cleveland Richard led the Black Knights with 15 points, while Simmons added 11 markers. Richard and senior G Marcus Nelson tied for the team lead with seven rebounds each. Richard also made a game-high three steals.

Mike Muscala was the only Bucknell player in double figures with 13 points. Bryan Cohen scored nine markers, while G.W. Boon had eight points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Army finished the game at a season-low 31.1 percent from the floor, including a 6-for-26 effort in the second half (.231). It was the team’s 12th straight loss when shooting 33.3 percent or less. The Black Knights’ defense limited the Bison to only 32.8 percent shooting, including 1 for 18 from three-point range.

Bucknell held a 38-34 rebounding edge, including 15 offensive rebounds that led to eight points. The teams combined for just 18 turnovers in the game, but the Bison turned 11 Army miscues into 11 points, while the Black Knights scored only five points off seven Bucknell miscues.

After the Bison scored the first basket, Army put the next four points on the scoreboard to take its first lead with 16:52 left in the opening stanza. Bucknell scored the next five points to lead 7-4, but Richard drained a three-pointer to knot the game at 7-7 with 13:48 left.

Muscala put the Bison up 10-7 with an old-fashioned three-point play. The rookie scored seven of Bucknell’s first 10 markers. The home team maintained a three-point lead at 14-11 before Simmons found the bottom of the net from long range to once again tie the score. A driving basket by junior F Jeremy Hence gave the Black Knights a 16-14 lead with 8:51 to go, but the Bison tied the game on a pair of free throws. Willman ended a five-minute, 25-second stretch without a Bucknell field goal to put the Bison back on top, 18-16, with 6:42 left.

Simmons converted a four-point play to quickly swing the lead back to the Black Knights, but four straight foul shots by Willman marked the sixth and final lead change of the first half. The Bison led 22-20 with 4:24 left before senior F Jon Sizemore hit a jumper in the lane to knot the score for the seventh time. Tyree scored for the Bison, but Richard answered with two free throws to make it 24-24 with 3:21 on the first-half clock. Willman stroked a jumper to push the Bison back on top, but two free throws by Hence with 10.6 seconds left ended the first-half scoring and sent the teams into the locker room tied at 26-26.

Richard led all scorers with nine points in the first half. Bucknell’s big-man combination of Willman and Muscala combined for 15 of its 26 points in the first 20 minutes.

Army shot 42.1 percent in the first half, including a 3-for-5 showing from behind the arc, and made all seven of its fouls shots, but committed seven turnovers. The Bison were just 8 for 31 (.258) from the floor, including 1 for 10 from deep, but stayed in the game with nine free throws in as many attempts. Bucknell was also efficient with the ball in the first half, committing only two turnovers.

The Black Knights came out of the gate in the second half with five straight points, including three by Nelson. The Bison countered with an 11-2 run to take a 37-33 lead with 12:38 left on the clock. Despite the start of the field goal drought, three foul shots by Richard pulled the Black Knights within one at 41-40 with 8:33 left, but Bucknell scored eight of the next nine points to take a 49-41 with 3:08 remaining. Army got within six on one occasion, but would not draw any closer in the second half. Boon put the exclamation point on the game with a dunk to give his team a 53-44 lead with less than 30 seconds left.

The loss ended the Black Knights’ four-game winning streak against the Bison and their two-game winning streak at Sojka Pavilion.

Army has a week off before beginning the second half of Patriot League play on Sunday, Feb. 7 at home versus Colgate. Tip-off at Christl Arena is set for 12 p.m. The game will be televised live by CBS College Sports Network. The first 1,000 paid admissions through the gates will receive a free Mike Krzyzewski bobblehead doll.

Game Notes:  Marcus Nelson was back in the starting lineup for the first time since the Colgate game on Jan. 9 … Nelson missed two games with an ankle injury and came off the bench in the last three outings … Army was tied at halftime for just the second time this season (at Holy Cross) … the Black Knights’ seven free throws in the first half were more than it made in the entire Lafayette game (5-9) … Army made more foul shots (17-16) than its opponent in a loss for only the second time this season (at Portland) … Josh Miller did not record a steal and remains tied for the Academy career record at 143 … Julian Simmons was the only Army player to take at least five shots and make 50 percent … Simmons was 4 for 8 overall and 2 for 3 from long range … Cleveland Richard and Josh Miller combined to go 4 for 21 from the field and 1 of 7 from three-point range … Bucknell’s seven turnovers were a season low for an Army opponent … the Black Knights will try to avoid their fourth straight loss next Sunday when they host Colgate … Army has had at least one four-game losing streak in every season since 1977-78.

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