WEST POINT, N.Y. – Senior G Julian Simmons scored 22 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to lead Army (6-8) back from an eight-point halftime deficit in its 79-70 victory over St. Francis (N.Y.) (4-9) in men’s basketball action at Christl Arena Saturday afternoon. Simmons made eight of his 10 shot attempts, including four of his five three-pointers after halftime.
Army trailed by as many as 10 in the first half and was down 40-32 at the break, but the Black Knights outscored the Terriers 47-30 in the second period. Army hit 58.6 percent of its shots in the second half, including a scorching 8-for-10 from long range.
Junior F Ella Ellis scored 23 points, his fourth straight 20-point game, and just missed a double-double with a team-high nine rebounds. Freshman G Milton Washington scored 10 points, all in the first half, for his second straight double-digit effort. Rookie G Maxwell Lenox came off the bench and handed out a career-high eight assists without committing a turnover in 21 minutes of action.
Stefan Perunicic and Ben Mockford led the Terriers with 17 points each on a combined 7-for-22 from behind the three-point line. Mockford scored 14 of his points in the first half, including four triples, but missed all seven of his three-point tries in the second half. Akeem Johnson scored 11 to round out the Terriers’ double-digit scorers. Jalen Cannon led all players with 13 rebounds.
Army shot 52.7 percent for the game overall and 50.0 percent from deep. The Black Knights’ defense limited the Terriers to 38.1 percent for the game and just 25.9 percent from three-point range. St. Francis was just 3-for-18 from behind the arc in the second half. The Terriers held a 40-33 rebounding edge, including an 18-9 advantage on the offensive glass.
The Terriers jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, but six straight points, including four by Washington, put Army on top 8-7 with 17:09 to go in the first half. St. Francis answered with a 7-0 run of its own to regain the advantage at 14-8. The Terriers led 19-13 before Ellis and Washington tallied five straight to pull the Black Knights within one with 12:41 to go.
Army was able to cut its deficit to one three more times, but each time, the Terriers had an answer. A Jordan Springer layup with 5:51 tied the game at 26-26, but St. Francis countered with four straight points to retake the lead. After a dunk by Ellis trimmed Army’s deficit to one with 3:39 left in the half, the Terriers went on a 10-1 run take their first double-digit lead at 40-30 with 34 seconds left on the first-half clock. Washington capped the scoring to send the Black Knights into the locker room down by eight.
Ellis and Washington scored 11 and 10 points, respectively in the first 20 minutes on a combined 7-for-9 shooting. The rest of the team went 5-for-17 from the floor in the first half. Mockford paced the Terriers with 14 first-half points, including four three-pointers in five tries.
Simmons scored the first basket of the second half, but Perunicic drilled a triple to push the Terriers’ advantage back to nine points with 19:20 left. Army started its comeback with an 13-2 run that gave the Black Knights a 47-45 lead with 13:35 left. Perunicic answered with another three-pointer to push the Terriers back on top, but an Ellis layup continued the see-saw scoring.
St. Francis scored three straight to regain at two-point lead at 51-49 with 11:39 to go, but Army used a 10-2 spurt that included five points by Simmons to take the lead for good at 59-53 with 9:11 to go.
The Terriers cut the lead to four, but Simmons provided the play of the game when he sprinted back on defense to deflect a pass, made a diving save to keep the ball from going out of bounds and then trailed the ensuing play before draining a three from the top of the key to stretch the lead back to seven points with 7:57 left.
St. Francis had one final run, getting within two points at 65-63 with 5:25 to go, but Simmons again answered for the Black Knights with another triple with 5:05 left. Army maintained at least a five-point edge for the rest of the game and led by as many as nine twice, including the final margin of victory.
The Black Knights have won three of their last four games and have a three-game home winning streak.
Army plays the middle game of its three-game homestand on Tuesday, Jan. 3 versus Longwood. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The Black Knights and Lancers have never met on the hardwood.
Game Notes: Army came back from double digits for the second time this season … Ella Ellis is averaging 22.5 points per game during his latest scoring binge … Ellis has scored in double figures 16 straight times … Josh Herbeck has made at least one three-pointer in every game this season … Army’s win snapped a four-game losing streak against the Terriers … the Black Knights now own a 7-6 all-time series lead … Army is now 5-1 this season when making more than 33.3 percent from deep … the Black Knights scored their eighth win of the Zach Spiker Era when trailing at halftime … Army had lost 16 straight games when trailing at the break prior to the start of the 2009-10 season … Army improved to 27-15 in its last 42 games when scoring at least 70 points … the win was just the Black Knights’ fifth in the last 48 games when allowing 70 points (5-43) … Army had two 20-point scorers for the second time in three games … Milton Washington joined Mo Williams as the only two Army freshman to post consecutive double-digit scoring games this season.