EASTON, Pa. - For the second time in as many meetings, Army jumped out to a lead of more than 20 points only to see Lafayette cut the deficit to single digits, but just as in the first game, the Black Knights answered and scored an 85-68 win at the Kirby Sports Center Wednesday night. The Black Knights (11-13, 4-5 PL) swept the Leopards (12-14, 5-4 PL) for the first time since 2009.
Army led by as many as 21 in the closing minutes of the first half, but the Leopards scored 12 in a row during a run that spanned both halves to pull within nine at 38-29 with 18:13 left in the second half. The Black Knights then settled in and exploded on a 20-3 spurt over the next five minutes to claim a 26-point advantage. Army led by as many as 31 in the final minutes before Lafayette ended the game on an 18-4 run to set the final margin.
Freshman Kyle Wilson led all scorers with 24 points, his sixth 20-point game of the season, on 9-for-13 from the floor. Wilson also grabbed seven rebounds and handed out four assists. Senior Ella Ellis netted 20 points, his seventh such effort of the season, and tied Wilson for the team lead with four helpers. Freshman Kyle Toth knocked down four of his seven triple tries en route to 14 markers. Classmate Kyle Ferguson led all players with a career-high 10 rebounds and contributed six points and two blocked shots.
Ferguson's 23 blocked shots rank third on Army's single-season list and are the most ever by an Army rookie.
Tony Johnson led three Leopards in double figures with 18 points. Seth Hinrichs and Bryce Scott each scored 16. Johnson also was credited with a game-high seven assists.
The Army defense limited Lafayette to 39.1 percent shooting for the game, including a 9-for-28 (.321) showing from three-point range. The Black Knights shot 55.6 percent overall and 54.2 percent from deep (13-24). Army held a 43-25 rebounding edge, its second-largest margin of the season.
Both teams started cold, going the first two minutes, 56 seconds without a basket, but a jumper by Wilson broke the ice and started an 11-2 game-opening run. Johnson scored for the Leopards to end a three-minute, 32-second scoring drought and cut Army's lead to seven with 13:09 to go.
The Black Knights lead hovered between seven and nine as Wilson scored eight straight for Army. Scott knocked down a three to trim Army's lead to 17-9 with 10:48 to go and stop the Leopards' 0-for-4 start from long range. Herbeck knocked down his second triple of the game to extend Army's lead to double figures for the first time at 20-9.
Lafayette cut the lead to nine on two occasions, but a 16-4 run over the next seven minutes gave the Black Knights a 38-17 lead with 1:22 to go. Lafayette scored the final points of the half on a pair of free throws to send the game into intermission with Army on top 38-19.
Wilson led all scorers with 13 points in the first half. The Black Knights knocked down 53.6 percent of their shots, while holding Lafayette to just 28.6 percent from the field. The Leopards, one of the top two three-point shooting teams in the league made just one of its 12 first-half attempts.
The Leopards started the half on a 10-0 run that cut the Army lead to 38-29. The Black Knights committed five turnovers during the Leopards run. Ellis knocked down a jumper to stop the momentum and end Army's two-minute, 28-second scoring drought to open the half. His basket started the first of two 10-0 runs that gave Army a 58-32 lead following a Ferguson dunk with 13:32 left.
The Leopards cut the deficit to 19 points, but an 18-6 run gave the Black Knights their largest lead of the game at 81-50 with 6:38 left. The Leopards were able to close the gap, but Army's lead proved insurmountable.
The Black Knights' victory snapped Lafayette's nine-game home winning streak.
Army is back on the road Saturday when it travels to arch-rival Navy for the annual Star Game. The Black Knights will be trying to capture the Alumni Trophy for the second straight season and third time in four years. The Mids won the first meeting at Christl Arena.
Game Notes: Army is now 3-2 when starting at least four freshmen … Josh Herbeck knocked down three three-pointers in just his second game back from injury … Army is now tied for fourth place with American in the Patriot League standings … the Black Knights defeated the Eagles at Christl Arena and play at Bender Arena on Feb. 23 … the win stopped Army's three-game losing streak at the Kirby Sports Center …. Zach Spiker is now only the fourth Army coach to win at least 48 games in their first four seasons (Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, George Hunter) … Army scored more than 80 points for the 10th time this season … Dylan Cox did not shoot … Cox handed out three assists with just one turnover to make his A/TO ratio in league play to 4.4 (35/8) … Ferguson has blocked at least one shot in seven straight games.