EASTON, Pa. - Tanner Plomb scored a career-high 24 points, including 14 during a 19-5 second-half run, to lead Army (5-7, 1-0 PL) to an 85-66 win over Lafayette (4-8, 0-1 PL) in the Patriot League men's basketball opener for both teams at the Kirby Sports Center Thursday afternoon. Teammate Kyle Wilson also scored 24 points, his fourth 20-point effort in the last five games.
After a 1-6 start, the Black Knights have won four of their last five games.
The game marked the first time since Army's last trip to Easton on Feb. 13, 2013 that the Black Knights had two players score at least 20 points in the same game.
Army led by 12 at the half and built a 13-point lead in the early going of the second half, but Lafayette scored five of the next seven points to cut its margin back to eight points with 14:55 to go. Plomb then started the Black Knights' decisive run with his second three-pointer of the half. The Mukwonago, Wis., native scored 14 points during the spurt on two three-pointers, two jumpers and two rim-rattling dunks.
In addition to Plomb and Wilson, rookie Tanner Omlid scored 14 points. Omlid made a career-high six steals, tying for third on the Black Knights' single-game ledger. It was the most thefts in a game since Cleveland Richard set the record with eight against Princeton on Nov. 21, 2009. Dylan Cox, Kevin Ferguson and Wilson each had five rebounds. Cox led the Black Knights with five assists, while Ferguson added two blocked shots to his season total to move into a tie for third on the Army single-season list (29).
Dan Trist and Bryce Scott led the Leopards with 13 points each. Zach Rufer was also in double figures with 10 points. Trist and Joey Ptasinski led Lafayette with five rebounds each.
The Army defense limited the Leopards to 43.6 percent from the field and just 26.3 percent (5-19) from long range. The Black Knights shot 54.4 percent overall, including a 45.0 percent mark from behind the three-point line (9-20).
The victory was Army's third straight in the series. All three have come by at least 18 points.
Army scored on a bucket by Wilson just seven seconds in, but the Army offense went cold, going the next 3:23 without a point. The Leopards led 7-3 when Plomb converted all three free throws after being fouled on a jumper to pull the Black Knights within one at 7-6 with 14:40 to go in the opening half. The play sparked an 8-0 Army run that gave the Black Knights an 11-7 lead after a three-pointer by Josh Herbeck.
The Leopards answered right back with eight straight of their own to reclaim a four-point lead. Cox was able to stop the momentum by taking a long rebound coast-to-coast to pull the Black Knights back within two points. The basket jumpstarted a 9-0 Army that gave the Black Knights a 20-15 advantage with 9:35 left in the half.
Again Lafayette stayed on Army's heels, cutting the lead to just one at 20-19 on a run out by Scott. An intentional foul that sent Ferguson to the line for two free throws put Army back on top by three and started a 12-2 run that gave the Black Knights a 32-21 advantage with 3:24 left on the clock. Four straight points by Scott trimmed the Army lead to eight points, but the Black Knights ended the half on a 7-2 run that pushed their margin to 39-27. Plomb capped the run with an old-fashioned three-point play with 39 seconds to go.
Wilson and Plomb led Army during the first half with nine and seven points, respectively. The Black Knights' defense harassed the Leopards into a 34.5 percent accuracy rate, including a 3-for-9 showing from deep, and nine turnovers. Army shot 54.2 percent overall and hit three of its six three-point tries.
Trist opened the second half with a basket, but Wilson drilled a three-pointer to give Army a 13-point lead. The Leopards pulled within eight after three-pointer by Scott, but Army again pushed its lead to a baker's dozen after a steal and breakaway dunk by Omlid with 16:52 left. A 7-2 Lafayette run cut the Black Knights' margin back to eight points before Plomb's game-changing effort during a three-minute, 12-second span.
Army was able to build a 25-point lead before the Leopards scored eight straight points to get within 17 at 81-64 with 3:20 left. A three-point play by Wilson pushed the Black Knights' lead back to 20 points and Army cruised to the 19-point win.
The win marked the first time Army has scored back-to-back wins at Kirby Sports Center since 2001 and 2002.
Army plays its first home Patriot League game on Sunday when it hosts Loyola at 2 p.m. It is just the second meeting between the two teams and the first as Patriot League foes. The Black Knights have never started Patriot League play with two straight victories.
Game Notes: Dylan Cox made his team-leading 43rd consecutive start … Lafayette played without starters Seth Hinrich and Alan Flannigan … Omlid has his highest-scoring game since his 18-point debut against Air Force on Nov. 8 … Plomb's two second-half dunks came on an alley-oop from Mo Williams and a strong baseline drive … Army has won six of its last seven Patriot League regular-season games and five of its last six Patriot League regular season road games ... Army has split the last 12 games with the Leopards … Army is shooting 40.2 percent (47-117) from three-point range in its last five games … Army is 4-2 with the starting lineup of Cox, Williams, Kyle Wilson, Tanner Plomb and Kevin Ferguson … Wilson is averaging 23.2 points per game in the last five outings … he has already matched his 20-point scoring game total (7) from all of his rookie season … Army and Loyola have not met since 1990 … the Greyhounds scored a 62-55 win in Baltimore.
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