Army Scores Comeback Win At Bucknell

Photo by Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

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LEWISBURG, Pa.  – Kyle Wilson’s spinning fadeaway in the lane with 12.5 seconds lifted fifth-seeded Army (15-15) to a 72-71 victory over No. 4 Bucknell (16-14) in the Patriot League Men’s Basketball Quarterfinals Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Wilson scored Army’s final nine points as the Black Knights overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 2:56.

The Bison led by eight in the second half, but Army cut the lead to one after a basket by Dylan Cox with 4:40 to go. Cox missed the free throw that would have tied the game, and the Bison reeled off six straight points to reclaim a seven-point advantage. Wilson made the first of his four straight field goals to start the Black Knights’ comeback and tied the game at 70-70 with his only three-pointer of the game with 1:03 left. Brian Fitzpatrick put the Bison back on top with a free throw with 34.6 seconds left, but Wilson’s bucket gave Army its first lead of the second half. Bucknell had one more chance, but Chris Hass’s baseline fallaway hit the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending Army to the conference tournament semifinals.

The Army defense held the Bison without a field goal for the final 2:56.

Willson finished with a game-high 19 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Dylan Cox scored 11 points and dished out three assists before fouling out, while Kevin Ferguson netted 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and five blocked shots. Plebe Tanner Omlid also played a key role with five points, seven rebounds and six steals, including one that set up Wilson’s game-tying three-pointer.

The Black Knights had eight different players make at least one three-pointer. Mo Williams and Matt Gramling were each 2-for-2 from distance. Mac Hoffman made his fourth career triple, all coming at Sojka Pavilion.

Hass led three Bucknell players in double figures with 18 points, including 14 in the first half. Cameron Ayers added 12 points, while Dom Hoffman netted 10 markers. Hoffman led the Bison with eight rebounds.

Army shot 48.3 percent for the game, including 47.8 percent (11-23) from three-point range. Bucknell shot 45.6 percent overall and hit eight of its 16 three-point tries. The Bison held a distinct 42-27 rebounding edge, but the Black Knights forced 17 turnovers that led to 27 points.

The Black Knights snapped a four-game postseason losing streak at Sojka Pavilion.

Bucknell took an early 7-0 lead, but Army scored 21 of the next 24 points to take an 11-point lead with 12:59 left in the first half. The Bison swung the lead back in their favor with a 19-6 spurt and led 39-36 at the half.  The Bison were able to extend their lead to eight points in the early going of the second half, but Army pulled within one on two occasions. The Black Knights had a chance to tie at the free throw line, but could not convert. Bucknell scored the next six points to seal the victory.

The Bison scored the first seven points of the game before Tanner Plomb hit Army’s first three-pointer with 18:05 left. The basket started a 21-3 burst that gave the Black Knights their largest lead of the game at 21-10 with 12:59 left in the half. Army made eight of its first 10 shots, including a 5-for-7 showing from three-point range. Five different players made a three-pointer during the spurt, including Williams’s triple that pushed Army’s lead to 11.

Ayers snapped a four-minute, 21-second Bucknell scoring drought, and the Bison cut their deficit to six points with11:07 to go. A quick 5-0 run that included a basket by Wilson and a three-pointer by Omlid pushed Army’s lead back to 11 points at 28-17, but Hass started Bucknell’s comeback with a three-pointer. After a putback by Cox, Hass buried another three-pointer that started the Bison’s 19-6 run to end the half. Bucknell regained the league a three-pointer by Ryan Frazier with 1:45 to go before halftime.

The Black Knights shot 48.3 percent overall and 46.7 percent from deep in the first half, but missed 10 of their last 13 shots, including four of their last five three-point tries. The Bison converted at a 60.0 percent rate both overall and from three-point range (6-10).

Nine of the 11 Black Knights that played in the first 20 minutes scored at least one basket, including seven different players with three-pointers. Cox and Wilson led the Black Knights with eight points each, while Hass had 14 in the first 20 minutes.

Bucknell extended their lead to seven points in the early going of the second half before Wilson ended Army’s two-minute, 11-second scoring drought to start the half. The Black Knights pulled within four points after a basket by Ferguson, but two three-pointers by John Azzinaro keyed a 6-2 run that pushed the Bison’s advantage to 51-43 with13:11 remaining.

Army scored eight of the next 10 points, including three-pointers by Gramling and Tanner Plomb, to pull within one point at 53-52 with 9:52 to go, but an old-fashioned three-point play by Frazier re-established a two-possession advantage for the Bison.

Bucknell led 64-57, but the Black Knights reeled off six straight to cut their deficit to one point. Cox had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line, but his attempt to finish a three-point play was off the mark. The Bison scored the next six points as the Black Knights committed three turnovers during that span.

Army trailed 70-63 when Wilson went to work. He hit two straight shots in the lane before burying his only three-pointer to tie the game. Omlid keyed the play by intercepting a Bucknell pass and starting the fastbreak. The Bison missed their next shot, a three-pointer by Ayers, but Fitzpatrick secured the rebound and was fouled. He made the first, but missed the second, and the Black Knights called time out with 23 seconds left.

Wilson got the ball at the top of the key and drove to his left before pivoting and falling away as he let loose with the game-winning shot. The Bison called time out with 12.5 seconds left to draw up their final play. Army caused a loose ball, but Hass picked it up with time to shoot. His fallaway hit the rim, and the Black Knights bench erupted in celebration.

Army advances to the Patriot League semifinals for the second straight season. The Black Knights will play at No. 1 Boston University Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast live by CBS Sports Network. The Terriers won both regular-season meetings by a combined six points. Army’s last visit to BU ended in an 86-81 overtime defeat in which the Black Knights came back from 22 points down to force the extra session.

Game Notes: Dylan Cox made his team-leading 61st consecutive start … Kevin Ferguson has made 31 of his last 35 field goals … Army won on the road in the conference tournament for the third time in school history … the Black Knights have won 15 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1976-77 and 1977-78 … Army has won its last four Patriot League quarterfinal games after winning its regular-season finale … Tanner Omlid’s six steals matched his career high and extended his Army season record to 63 … Ferguson’s five blocks stretched his season record to 78 and his career mark to 113 … Army’s seven road wins ties the program high since the 1976-77 team won 10 on the road.

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