Army Holds Off Lafayette, 87-84

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WEST POINT, N.Y.  – Kyle Wilson scored 28 points, including eight in final 3:27 to lead the Army men’s basketball team to an 87-84 victory over Lafayette Saturday afternoon at Christl Arena. The Black Knights, who will be the No. 5 seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament, improved to 14-15 overall and 10-8 in the conference, while the Leopards, the No. 9 seed, fell to 10-19 overall and 6-12 in the league.

Army’s 10 Patriot League victories are the most in program history as the Black Knights finished with a winning record in league play in consecutive seasons for the first time.

The Black Knights 19-12 with just less than 14 minutes left in the first half, but outscored the Leopards 27-9 over the next nine minutes to take a 39-28 lead with 4:20 to go before halftime. Lafayette used a quick 11-2 spurt to pull within two, but Kevin Ferguson’s basket with 39 seconds left gave Army a four-point advantage at intermission. Lafayette trimmed the Black Knights’ advantage to one point twice in the opening minutes of the second half, but Army used a 12-4 run to open up a nine-point lead with 14:01 to go. The Leopards kept coming, however, getting within two on five occasions, but each time the Black Knights answered. Tanner Plomb’s three-pointer with 2:30 to go made it a five-point game, and Army led by at least three for the remainder of the contest. Seth Hinrichs had a chance to tie the game, but his last-second three-pointer glanced off the rim at the buzzer, securing the victory for the Black Knights.

Wilson’s 28 points was just one shy of his career high. The Patriot League’s top scorer during league play was 10-for-16 from the field, including 4-for-6 from deep. He made all four of his free throws, all coming in the final 33 seconds.

The Black Knights had three other players in double figures led by Ferguson’s 17 points on 7-for-8 from the field. He also grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked four shots to become the first Army player to swat 70 shots in a season (73). Dylan Cox and Tanner Omlid added 11 points, each. Omlid also tied for the team lead with six rebounds, while Cox handed out a game-high five assists.

Omlid made three steals on the defensive end to break the Army single-season record. His 57 steals topped the old mark of 55 set by Josh Miller in 2007-08.

Hinrichs led four Leopards in double figures with 19 points. Dan Trist had 17, while Joey Ptasinski and Nick Lindner had 16 points each. Hinrichs also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.

Both teams were over 50.0 percent shooting for the game. The Black Knights connected on 57.9 percent, including a 10-for-18 showing from deep (.556). The Leopards were at 52.2 percent overall, but were just 9-for-25 from distance (.360). Each team scored 18 fastbreak points. Army held a 34-28 edge on the glass.

The victory gave the Black Knights’ second straight season sweep of the Leopards.

Lafayette scored the first four points and took a 15-9 lead on a layup by Trist with 14:31 to go. Wilson knocked down his first three-pointer to cut the lead in half, but the Leopards scored the next four points to take their largest lead at 19-12 with 13:38 left in the opening period.

Larry Toomey buried a three-pointer to start a 7-0 run that tied the game at 19-19. Lafayette scored the next four points, but Cox and Wilson combined to score the next 11 points to put Army on top 30-23 with 7:40 to go. Rufer converted a steal into two points to stop the run, but the Black Knights scored the next four points to take a nine-point lead. After a three-pointer by Lindner, Toomey hit a jumper and Omlid stroked his first three-pointer to give the Black Knights their largest lead of the game at 39-28 with 4:20 left in the half.

Michael Hoffman hit a triple to start the Leopards’ comeback, and a dunk by Trist put the exclamation point on an 11-2 run that cut Army’s lead to 41-39 with 1:53 left before halftime. Ferguson’s basket with 39 seconds to go was the last points of the second half.

Wilson led all players with 13 in the first half. Ferguson was also in double figures with 12 points.

Hinrichs started the second-half scoring with a three-pointer to cut Army’s lead to just one point, but Wilson answered with a triple of his own. The Leopards trimmed their deficit to one again, but Army reeled off seven straight, capped by a three-point play by Plomb, to take a 54-46 lead with 16:24 to go.

Army stretched its lead to 63-54 after a basket by Wilson, but the Leopards kept coming. Rufer and Lindner hit back-to-back triples to make ti a three-point game, after a basket by Cox, Ptasinski was true from deep to make it a 67-65 game with 9:04 to go. Omlid answered for the Black Knights, scoring the next five points to re-establish a seven-point lead. The Leopards got within two points on two occasions, but Wilson scored and Plomb buried a three-pointer to put the Black Knights back in front by two possessions.

The Black Knights led 87-81 after Wilson converted his third and fourth free throws with 18 seconds left. Hinrichs hit a three-pointer on the other end to make it a three-point game, and the Leopards sent Ferguson to the line with just less than 10 seconds to go. He missed the front end of a one-and-one and after Lafayette secured the rebound, Hinrichs’ last-second shot from the top of the key was off the mark to end the game.

Army will travel to No. 4 Bucknell on Wednesday, March 5 for the Patriot League quarterfinals. The two teams split the regular-season series with each winning on its home floor. Tip-off at Sojka Pavilion is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday nights’ game will mark the fifth time in the last nine seasons the two teams have met in the postseason.

Boston University captured its first Patriot League regular-season title and will be the top seed in the tournament. American is the No. 2 seed followed by Holy Cross. Lehigh finished sixth and will play at the Crusaders on Wednesday.

Colgate finished seventh and will host No. 10 Navy on Monday. The winner of that game will play at American in the quarterfinals. Loyola is the No. 8 seed and will host the Leopards. The winner will play at BU on Wednesday.

Game Notes: Dylan Cox made his team-leading 60th consecutive start … Army’s 30 wins in the last two seasons are its best two-year win total since the 1977-78 and 1978-79 teams, coached by Mike Kryzyzewski, won 33 games … head coach Zach Spiker is the first Army coach to win 30 Patriot League games … Saturday’s game was the final regular-season home game for senior Josh Herbeck … the win snapped  a four-game losing streak in regular-season finales … Army’s 87 points improved the season total to 2,102 which is the second most in school history … last season’s team set the record with 2,245 … Kyle Wilson’s 18.2 points per game in conference play was the fifth best by an Army player in a Patriot League season … Wilson finished with 328 points in league play, the most by an Army player (2013-14 was the first season with 18 league games) …. Wilson’s overall season total of 529 points is 14th on Army’s single-season list … his 932 points so far through his freshman and sophomore seasons is second only to Gary Winton who scored 1,022 points as a plebe and yearling (1974-76) … Army blocked five shots to extend its team record 124 … Kevin Ferguson extended his Army season record to 73 blocked shots and his career mark to 108.

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