BETHLEHEM, Pa. Josh Miller scored a career-high 25 points, including 19 after halftime, to lead the fifth-seeded Army men’s basketball team to a come-from-behind, 64-61 overtime victory against No. 4 Lehigh at Stabler Arena on Wednesday, March 5 in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament.
Army (14-15) trailed by seven points with less than four minutes remaining, but came back to tie the score and force the extra session. Army finished the second half on a 9-2 spurt and held the Mountain Hawks (14-15) without a field goal for the final 3:52 of regulation. Down by two, Jarell Brown found Doug Williams, who had slipped a screen, for an emphatic one-handed jam that tied the game at 54-54. Marquis Hall’s potential game-winning three was off the mark, and Miller corralled the rebound. He called Army’s final timeout with 1.7 seconds left, but the Black Knights’ full-court pass was knocked away sending the game into overtime.
Free throws were key in the extra session as each team made just one field goal. Bryan White put the Mountain Hawks ahead, 56-54, but a pair of free throws by Brown tied the game. After Hall and Miller exchanged foul shots, to keep the game tied at 58-58, Lehigh used two foul shots by Matt Szalachowski and one by White to take a 61-58 lead. Miller hit two more from the stripe to bring Army within one, and a traveling violation gave the Black Knights the ball back. Cleveland Richard beat the Lehigh defense with a back-door move and laid the ball in for Army’s only field goal of the extra session to give the Black Knights a 62-61 lead with 1:03 left. That started the sophomore’s heroic final minute. On Lehigh’s next possession, Richard blocked Hall’s runner in the lane and dove on the loose ball, alertly calling timeout to maintain possession for the Black Knights. Army inbounded the ball to Williams, who was fouled immediately. He stepped to the line and drilled both foul shots with 11.0 seconds remaining to give Army a 64-61 lead. After a Lehigh timeout, Army was able to knock the ball free and Richard picked it up in the backcourt to ensure Army’s second straight Patriot League quarterfinal victory.
The Mountain Hawks had overcome an eight-point halftime deficit to take control in the second half before the Black Knights comeback effort.
It is the second straight season that Army has knocked the Mountain Hawks out of the Patriot League Tournament on their home floor. Miller was the hero last season with a buzzer-beater that gave the Black Knights a 47-46 win.
In addition to his career-best scoring total, Miller led Army with a career-high nine rebounds. He also handed out three assists and made three steals in 39 minutes of work. His three swipes increased his season total to 52, tying Army’s single-season record. Brown was the only Army player in double figures with 13 points. He also dished out a career-high five assists. Williams added seven points and six boards, while Marcus Nelson was strong on the defensive end with five steals.
White finished his collegiate career with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. He made 10 of his 12 field goal attempts. Hall was next with 15 points and Zahir Carrington added 10 markers.
The Army defense forced 16 turnovers and limited the Mountain Hawks to just 2 of 15 from three-point range. The Black Knights held a distinct advantage at the foul line, knocking down 20 of 25 attempts, compared to just 13 of 17 for the Mountain Hawks. Army made all eight of its free throws in the extra session and made its last 10 from the line in the game.
Army outrebounded Lehigh for the third straight game, 34-28, and outshot the Mountain Hawks, 45.7 percent to 42.6 percent.
The Mountain Hawks had defeated Army in both regular-season meetings.
Lehigh opened the game scoring four of the first six points, all by White, but the Black Knights reeled off nine straight points to take an 11-4 lead with 13:05 to go. The Army run was one of several by both teams in the opening half. The Mountain Hawks ended a three-minute, 50-second scoring drought with a basket by Carrington that ignited a 6-1 run and cut the Army lead to 12-10 with 9:56 left in the half. It was the Black Knights turn to seize momentum with five straight points by sophomore Chris Walker, including a three-point play, to push their lead back to seven at 17-10. The Mountain Hawks rallied with eight consecutive points to take a one-point lead at 18-17 with 3:18 left in the half. Williams’ basket with 2:44 left ended a five-minute, 54-second Army run without a point and ignited a 11-2 spurt to end the half and push Army ahead by eight at 28-20. The final basket came on a Grant Carter three-pointer with one second on the clock. Carter hustled into the backcourt to save a loose ball, streaked up the right sideline to receive the pass from Corban Bates and drilled the shot from the right wing as the clock expired.
Miller led a balanced Army first-half attack with six points, while White led all scorers with eight for the Mountain Hawks. Army forced 12 turnovers, scoring 11 points off the miscues. Army shot 46.2 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, limiting the Mountain Hawks to just 39.1 percent from the field, including a 1 of 7 mark from long range.
Lehigh began its comeback right out of the gate in the second half with the first four points of the stanza. A basket by Miller pushed Army’s lead back to six points with 17:50 to go. The Mountain Hawks responded with the next six points, including four by White, to knot the score at 30-30. Miller stopped the run with a pair of free throws to give the Black Knights a 32-30 lead with 12:20 to go. A free throw by Nelson pushed the lead to 33-30, but the Mountain Hawks scored the next four to take a 34-33 lead with 9:50 remaining. An old-fashioned three-point play by Miller gave Army back the lead briefly, but the Mountain Hawks used a 10-1 run to take a 44-37 lead with 6:47 left. Army battled back to within three points at 46-43, but Lehigh extended it lead back to seven with a 6-2 run, setting up the Black Knights’ comeback.
Army has now advanced to the Patriot League semifinals in consecutive years for the first time since the 1995 and 1996 postseasons. The Black Knights will play at top-seeded American, who beat No. 8 Holy Cross 62-60 on Wednesday, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 9. The Eagles defeated the Black Knights twice during the regular season.
Game Notes: In the other Patriot League quarterfinals, No. 7 Bucknell defeated No. 2 Navy, 87-86 in triple overtime ... No. 3 Colgate defeated No. 6 Lafayette 76-74 ... Army’s three-point win was the largest margin of victory in any of the four quarterfinal games ... Army has won three straight for the first time this season ... Army’s seven road wins are the most since the 1976-77 team won 10 away from West Point ... Army’s 20 free throws were the most since making 24 against Lafayette on Feb. Feb. 24, 2007 ... After losing five straight overtime games between 2005 and 2007, the Black Knights have won both of their overtime games this season (Colgate) .. Jarell Brown’s one three-pointer put him in a second-place tie on Army’s single-season list with 98 ... Josh Miller now ranks seventh on Army’s single-season assists ledger with 115.