Army 79, Lafayette 55
EASTON, Pa. Freshman G Julian Simmons scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Army men’s basketball team (9-18, 5-8) to a 79-55 win over Lafayette (8-20, 4-9) in Patriot League action at Kirby Sports Center on Wednesday night. Simmons was one of three players in double figures for the Black Knights, who earned their first conference road victory of the season.
The win stopped a seven-game losing streak in regular-season Patriot League games away from West Point. It also ended a six-game losing streak at the Kirby Sports Center. The victory clinched a regular-season sweep of the Leopards, the first time the Black Knights have accomplished that feat since the 2001-02 season.
Junior F Cleveland Richard tallied 15 points, while senior C Kenny Brewer rounded out the Black Knights’ top scorers with 11 markers, nine of which came in the first half. Junior G Josh Miller chipped in nine points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. Senior C Doug Williams led the squad with five rebounds.
Junior Marcus Nelson blocked two shots to break the Army single-season record. The 5-11 guard now has 30 rejections on the season, topping the old mark of 29 set by Jimmy Sewell in 2004-05.
Jared Mintz paced the Leopards with 12 points, while Michael Gruner added 11 markers.
The Black Knights’ 24-point margin of victory was its largest ever in a Patriot League game.
Army’s 79 points were a season-high in a non-overtime contest. The Black Knights scored 76 points in wins against Navy and Bucknell, and posted a season-high 82 points in a triple-overtime win versus Lehigh.
Army shot 54.7 percent for the game (29-53), including a 40.0 percent (6-15) effort from three-point range. The Leopards hit just 31.1 percent (19-61) for the game and were just 6 of 28 (.214) from long range.
Army scored the game’s first six points before a basket by Brown ended a five-minute, 44-second scoring drought to start the game for the Leopards. The bucket started a 7-0 run to give Lafayette its only lead of the half at 7-6. Junior G Jon Sizemore knocked down a jumper to give the Black Knights back the lead and start an 11-0 Black Knight run that was punctuated by a three-pointer by Richard to give Army a 17-7 lead with 8:18 left in the opening half.
The Leopards scored the next four points, but Army went on a 6-0 spurt capped by a three-pointer by Simmons with 6:55 left to make the score 23-11. The Black Knights led 25-15 before a 12-4 run pushed their advantage to 37-19 with 3:17 left. Another three-pointer, this one by senior John Moonshower, put an exclamation point on the outburst.
Lafayette cut the lead to 37-23 with less than a minute to go, but Josh Miller’s alley-oop to Brewer with 20.7 seconds left re-established a 16-point lead. The Leopards turned it over on their final possession, and Miller found Brewer again with an inbounds lob for a layup at the buzzer to send Army into the locker room up 41-23.
The Black Knights shot a blistering 62.5 percent (15-24) in the opening stanza, while the defense limited Lafayette to only 30.8 percent (8-26) from the floor and forced 13 turnovers that led to 16 first-half points. A combined 26 fouls were whistled in the first 20 minutes, leading to a combined 27 free throws. The Black Knights outscored the Leopards 8-5 from the line.
Richard and Brewer led the Black Knights with nine points each in the first half. Gruner and Brown each tallied seven points to lead the Leopards.
The Black Knights scored six of the first seven points of the second half, including four by Miller, to take a 47-24 advantage. The Leopards refused to fold, scoring eight consecutive points, the last six of which came on back-to-back three-pointers by Ryan Willen, to get within 15 points at 47-32 with 16:21 to go. Two free throws by Richard stopped a two-minute, four-second Army scoring drought and kickstarted a 22-10 run by the Black Knights that put them out in front 71-42 with 5:56 remaining. Simmons scored all 10 of his second-half points during the spurt, including a pair of three-pointers.
The Leopards were able to close within 20 points in the final minutes, but Army rallied to take the 24-point win.
Army wraps up the regular-season on Saturday, Feb. 28 with a game at Bucknell. The Black Knights defeated the Bison 76-65 earlier this season at Christl Arena.
Along with Army’s win, Holy Cross defeated Colgate and Bucknell knocked off Lehigh, keeping the Black Knights’ chances for a Patriot League quarterfinal game alive. If Army defeats the Bison, Holy Cross takes out Lehigh and Navy beats Colgate on Saturday, the Black Knights will secure the fourth seed in the upcoming postseason.
Game Notes: Army used the same starting lineup for the second straight time. It was the first time the Black Knights went with the same first unit in consecutive games since a three-game run from Jan. 28-Feb. 4 ... Army is now 11-8 over the last three seasons when either Kenny Brewer, Doug Williams or Chris Walker scores in double figures ... The Black Knights had 12 players score at least one point, matching their season high ... Army has scored at least 76 points in four of its five Patriot League wins ... The Black Knights have won at least five Patriot League games in consecutive seasons for the first time ... Julian Simmons averaged 18.5 points per game in his two appearances versus the Leopards this season ... Army held Lafayette’s top scorer, Andrew Brown, to single digits in both games this season ... The Leopards entered Wednesday’s game on top of the Patriot League free throw percentage rankings at 75.1 percent, but made only 50.0 percent (11-22) of their tries on Wednesday night ... Army is now 16-5 in its last 21 games when scoring at least 70 points ... The Black Knights have won 14 of their last 20 when shooting at least 50 percent ... Army is 7-2 this season when shooting at least 40 percent from three-point range ... The Black Knights were 15 of 23 from the foul line, improving their record since the start of last season to 16-8 when shooting at least 15 free throws and 12-4 when making at least 13 foul shots ... Cleveland Richard has reached double figures in nine of his last 11 games. The only team to keep him below 10 points in that stretch is American.