Army Rally Falls Short At American

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Army went on a 27-7 second-half run to cut a 23-point deficit to just three with 1:18 to go, but American was able to hang on for a 58-54 victory Saturday afternoon in Patriot League men’s basketball action at Bender Arena. Mo Williams led the charge with 14 second-half points, including three three-pointers, scoring a career-high 18 for the game.

Army started the game 8-for-33 from the field, but hit nine of its last 14 shots during the rally. The Eagles started 18-for-30, but the Black Knights’ defense held them to 3-for-12 in the final 12:39.

Kevin Ferguson and Dylan Cox also scored in double figures with 11 points each. Williams, Ferguson and Cox combined to score Army’s final 23 points. Ferguson also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and blocked two shots. Tanner Omlid made three steals to move into a tie for second on Army’s single-season list with a plebe record 52 swipes.  Kyle Wilson led the team with three assists.

Jesse Reed paced the Eagles with a game-high 21 points. Tony Wroblicky was also in double figures with 14 points and completed the double-double with a game-high 12 rebounds.

The Black Knights finished the game at 36.2 percent overall (17-47) and 31.3 percent from distance (5-16). AU shot 21-for-42 and were 5-for-12 (.417) from behind the arc. The Eagles also held a 32-28 rebounding advantage, but Army was better on the offensive glass, 9-4.

Army jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to defensive stops on the first three possessions and baskets by Omlid and Ferguson.  Reed scored four straight to tie the game, but Ferguson put Army back on top 6-4 with 14:43 left in the half.

The Black Knights’ offense went dormant over the next eight minutes, one second as the Eagles scored the next 15 points to claim a 19-6 lead with 8:40 remaining. A basket by Cox stopped the Army drought at the 5:24 mark, but that was the Black Knights’ final field goal of the half. The Black Knights’ last six points of the half came at the free throw line. The Eagles were able to take their largest lead of the half on a three-pointer by Austin Carroll with 32 seconds left. Army’s last shot was off the mark, and the Black Knights trailed 30-16 at intermission.

Army shot just 22.7 percent (5-for-22) overall and were 0-for-6 from distance in the opening 20 minutes. The Eagles shot 52.4 percent overall (11-21) and were 3-for-7 from deep. Reed led all players with nine points, while Ferguson and Williams both scored four first-half points to lead Army.

AU started the second half on a 10-1 run to take a 40-17 lead before Scott Mammel ended Army’s 0-for-7 start from three-point range. The Eagles rebuilt a 23-point lead at 47-24 on a three-pointer by Marco Vasic with 12:40 showing on the clock. Fergsuon hit a pair of free throws to start a 12-0 Army run. Williams scored five during the spurt that made it 47-36 with 7:33 remaining.

After a tough jumper by Reed, Army scored 10 of the next 12 points to trim their deficit to 51-46 with 2:39 to go. Two foul shots by Wroblick re-established a seven-point lead for the Eagles, but Cox buried his only three-pointer of the game to pull Army within four points at 53-49 with 1:32 to go. American pushed it to a five-point game with one free throw, but Cox was fouled on the other end. He was 1-for-2 from the line, but Army corralled the loose ball on the miss. Williams was sent to the line where he hit the first to trim the Black Knights’ deficit to 54-51 with 1:18 to go.

John Schoof missed a free throw, and Cox raced the ball up the court where he found a wide-open Larry Toomey trailing the play. The forward’s triple try was off the mark and the Eagles rebounded to maintain their advantage. Army forced a shot clock violation, but the Black Knights could not take advantage, missing another three-point try. AU’s Darius Gardner made two free throws with 20 seconds left and Reed scored on a run out after blocked shot to make it a seven-point game with five seconds left. Williams buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.

The loss assured Army can finish no higher than third place in the Patriot League standings. Army is one-half game ahead of Bucknell for fourth place, pending the Bison’s outcome tomorrow at league-leading Boston University. Army can still finish in third place with victories in their last two games and three losses by Holy Cross in their final games.

Army ends the season with two straight home games, hosting Boston University on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The Black Knights end the regular season against Lafayette on Saturday, March 1 at 3 p.m.

Game Notes: Dylan Cox made his team-leading 58th consecutive start … Army’s 16 points were a first-half season low … Mo Williams’s three three-pointers tied a career high … he had scored 12 total points in his last 12 games … Kevin Ferguson blocked two shots to extend his Army season record to 63 and his career record to 98 … he needs just two more to be the first Army player to block 100 in their career … Tanner Omlid is three steals shy of breaking the Black Knights single-season mark currently held by Josh Miller who had 55 in 2007-08 … Army’s 54 points were a season low … Army’s 58 points allowed was its third best effort of the season against Division I competition and was the fewest points allowed in a loss this season … Army played 14 players, including five plebes and seven yearlings.

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