WEST POINT, N.Y. - Fourth-seeded Army (16-14) used a 27-7 first half run to break open a one-point game and cruised to a 65-44 win over No. 5 American (10-20) in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament Wednesday night at Christl Arena. The win clinched the Black Knights' first winning season since the 1984-85 squad went 16-13.
The Black Knights never trailed in the game and led 9-8 before the decisive run. Army led by 19 at the break and was up by as many as 30 points in the second half. The 21-point margin was the most lopsided win in Army's postseason history.
Senior Ella Wllis led three Army players in double figures with 16 points, including three three-pointers. Freshman Larry Toomey scored a career-high 13 points, also nailing three three-pointers, and classmate Kevin Ferguson topped his career best with 12 points. Ferguson tied the Army record with five blocked shots, increasing his season total to an Academy record 33. Freshman Kyle Toth led the team with seven rebounds, while Patriot League Rookie of the Year Kyle Wilson had a game-high six assists.
The Eagles were paced by 12 points from Tony Wroblicky and 11 points from Stephen Lumpkins. Lumpkins also led the team with eight rebounds.
The Army defense allowed a season-low 44 points, the team's best defensive effort against a Division I opponent since a 61-40 win at Fairleigh Dickinson during the 2009-10 season. The Black Knights limited the Eagles to just 30.9 percent from the field (17-55) and 1-for-11 from three-point range (.091). American's John Schoof entered the game as the Patriot League's top three-point shooter in terms of both makes per game and percentage, but was just 0-for-1 from downtown.
Ferguson got the Black Knights rolling with back-to-back baskets and a three-pointer by Toomey put Army on top 7-2 with 16:06 left. The Eagles cut the lead to 9-8, but Ellis's first three-pointer ignited a 27-7 run that put the Black Knights on top 36-15. Josh Herbeck capped the run with Army's seventh three-pointer of the half with 3:46 remaining. Ellis and Toomey each knocked down two three-pointers during the run.
Wroblicky and Lumpkins combined for American's first 15 points, while the rest of the team started 0-for-17. Schoof scored to make it 36-17 with 2:52 left, and Jesse Reed banked in a three-pointer to trim Army's lead to 36-20. The Black Knights had the final possession of the half, and Wilson buried a step-back three with less than five seconds left to send Army into the locker room with a 39-20 lead.
Ellis and Toomey each made three triples and scored 11 points in the first half. The Black Knights were 8-for-13 from long range, while limiting the Eagles to just 9-for-20 overall. Players other than Lumpkins and Wroblicky were 2-for-21 in the opening stanza.
Army opened the half on a 9-3 run to take a 48-23 lead. Ellis capped the spurt with a three-point play with 16:58 remaining. The Eagles pulled back within 21 points on two occasions, but leading 51-30 the Black Knights used an 11-2 run to open up its largest lead at 62-32 with 10:05 to go. Four different players scored for Army during that stretch.
Army went eight minutes and 35 seconds without scoring, but the Eagles were only able to cut their deficit to 20 points. Ferguson scored on his third dunk of the game with 1:30 left to make it 64-42, and Matt Gramling added a free throw to push the lead back to 23 points. Daniel Munoz hit a jumper to set to the final margin.
The Black Knights travel to top-seeded Bucknell on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. and will be televised live by CBS Sports Network. The Bison defeated Army twice this season, 76-55 in Lewisburg, and 60-58 at West Point.
Game Notes: Army ended the Eagles 11-year streak of semifinal appearances … the Black Knights are 2-0 in Patriot League Tournament games when they are the higher seed … Army will be making its sixth appearance in the Patriot League semifinals … Army scored its first postseason win over the Eagles (1-4) … the Black Knights defeated a team for the third time in one season for the first time since 1986-87 (Fordham) … Army outrebounded the Eagles 40-33 … AU owned the rebounding edge in each of the two regular-season meetings … the Black Knights tied their season low with nine turnovers … Army's average margin of victory in its nine wins versus Patriot League teams is 13.8 points … American is the only team to hold Ella Ellis under 30 points in the last five games (15 at American on Feb. 23).