Final Statistics: Army 64, Bryant 58
Army Postgame Quotes
WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army men’s basketball team won its fifth in a row, coming from behind to take out the Bryant Bulldogs, 64-58 at Christl Arena on Monday night. The win put the Black Knights at 5-1 on the season, while the Bulldogs dropped to 0-6.
Army has won five of its first six games for the first time since the 1978-79 season when the Mike Krzyzewski-led Cadets began the campaign 6-1. It is Army’s first five-game winning streak since a six-game run in 2006-07.
The Black Knights trailed by as many as eight in the first half, and were down one at halftime, but outscored the Bulldogs 31-24 in the second half to take the victory.
Senior F Cleveland Richard led the Black Knights with 18 points and six rebounds, including a season-high three three-pointers. Richard also led the defensive charge with five steals and did not commit a turnover. Freshman F Ella Ellis had his first career double-digit scoring game with 10 points in 12 minutes off the bench. Senior G Josh Miller dished out a team-high five assists.
Bryant was playing without its leading scorer, Cecil Gresham, who was averaging 15.0 points per game, but Chris Birrell picked up the slack with a game-high 20 points, including six three-pointers. Birrell was the only Bryant player in double figures. Barry Latham grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs entered the game hitting just 30.8 percent of its three-pointers, but hit 12-of-29 (.414) triples against the Black Knights. Bryant built its first half lead on the strength of an 8-for-15 showing from deep during the first 20 minutes. The Army defense rebounded in the second half, limiting the Bulldogs to only 20.8 percent (5-24) from the floor and 28.6 percent (4-14) from three-point range after halftime. The Black Knights shot 40.4 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but Richard broke Army’s early scoring drought with a three-pointer at the 18:24 mark. Bryant made their first four shots, including three three-pointers to lead 11-4 with 17:15 left in the first half.
Army scored the next five points to pull within two, but the Bulldogs continued their torrid start with their fourth three in their first five attempts to reclaim a five-point advantage with 15:04 to go. Back-to-back baskets by senior F Eric Zastoupil pulled Army within one and junior F Jeremy Hence tied the game at 14-14 with one of two free throws at the 12:48 mark.
Bryant broke the tie with a 10-2 run to take a 24-16 lead with 7:39 left. The Bulldogs hit six of their first nine three-point attempts en route to their largest lead of the half. Army countered with a 12-2 spurt of its own. Miller hit a three-pointer to tie the score with 6:11 left, and the Black Knights took their first lead at 28-26 on runner by Richard with 4:21 left. Bryant scored the next five points, including their seventh triple of the half. Again Army mustered a comeback with six consecutive points to lead 32-31 with under a minute to go. Birrell hit a three-pointer to push the Bulldogs back in front by two with nine seconds left. Miller was fouled on his last-second desperation shot, but made just one of the two free throws to send Army into the locker room down 34-33.
Army shot 50.0 percent for the half, but the Bulldogs hit 55.0 percent of their shots, including 8-of-15 three-pointers. Bryant outrebounded the Black Knights 14-10 in the first 20 minutes. Richard and Zastoupil led all players with eight in the opening stanza. Jordan was the Bulldogs’ top scorer with seven points.
Bryant scored the first points of the second half on a putback to extend their lead to three points, but the Black Knights countered with a 10-0 run that put Army in front for good. Ellis scored five points during the spurt, which was capped by a Simmons’ runner that put Army on top 44-36 with 13:35 on the clock.
The Bulldogs scored six straight to slice their deficit to only two points with 11:01 left, but Army responded with a 6-0 run started by a hustle play on the offensive end. Miller chased down a loose ball after an Army miss and rifled it to Ellis underneath where he made the layup and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to push the Black Knights back in front by five with 10:25 remaining. Richard hit a three in the corner to give Army its largest lead of the game to that point at 50-42.
Nick Pontes hits two free throws to stop the run and pull the Bulldogs back within six, but Richard’s third three-pointer of the game extended the Black Knights advantage to 53-44 with 7:06 left. Birrell answered right back with his fourth triple of the game, but Army was able to regain an eight-point advantage on a driving lay-in by Miller.
Army led 57-48, but the Bulldogs charged back with five straight points, including Birrell’s fifth three-pointer of the game with 2:20 left. Bryant had the ball with just over a minute to go and a chance to cut into the lead further, but Richard poked the ball away, dove on it and called timeout to give the Black Knights possession. The Bulldogs were forced to foul and Simmons drained both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 59-53 lead with 57 seconds left.
Bryant connected on two free throws of its own to make it a 59-55 game with 44 seconds on the clock. The Black Knights nearly turned it over on the ensuing possession, but Hence was able to track down the loose ball. He was immediately fouled and calmly stroked both free throws to make it a 61-55 game with 35 seconds left.
The Bulldogs were not done, however. Following an offensive rebound, Birrell was true from long range for the sixth time in the game, trimming the Army lead to 61-58 with 18.2 seconds on the clock. The Bulldogs sent Hence to the line again, but he was only able to make one of two. Richard grabbed a key offensive rebound on the miss and after being fouled, hit one of two shots to make it 63-58 with 17 seconds left.
Bryant’s Adam Parzych tried to draw a foul on a three-pointer, but there was no whistle, which prompted Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea to protest and draw a technical foul. Richard hit one of the two freebies with 3.4 seconds left and set the final score at 64-58.
Army has won its last five home games and nine of its last 10 appearances at Christl Arena.
The Black Knights begin a three-game road stretch on Thursday when they travel take on Buffalo in Amherst, N.Y. The Bulls are 2-2 on the season and return four starters from last year’s team that won 24 games and advanced to the title game of the MAC Tournament.
Game Notes: Mitch McDonald made his first career start in place of Josh Miller … Tyrell Thompson and C.J. McElrath were in uniform, but did not participate in warm ups and were not available … both players are nursing ankle injuries ... Jeremy Hence made his first three-pointer of the season … Army’s 34-33 halftime deficit marked only the third time this season the Black Knights trailed after 20 minutes (VMI, LIU) … Army finished the month on its longest November winning streak in program history … Eric Zastoupil scored a season-high eight points … Julian Simmons made a three-pointer for the 11th straight game … Army is now 3-0 all-time versus Bryant … Army’s five non-conference wins this season surpasses last year’s win total versus non-Patriot League opponents (4) … Army has held its last five opponents to less than 60 points … the Black Knights are 20-9 in their last 29 games when they eclipse the 60-point barrier … five of the Black Knights’ six games have been decided by seven points or less, including four of their five wins … Cleveland Richard’s five steals vaulted him ahead of teammates Marcus Nelson and Josh Miller into fourth place on Army’s career steals ledger … Army used its fourth starting lineup of the season in the victory.¬¬¬¬