WEST POINT – Jalen Rucker scored a team-high 21 points as the Black Knights downed the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds, 77-74, in overtime to open Patriot League play on Saturday.
The Black Knights led by as much as 18 points before the visitors clawed their way back into the game and forced overtime with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation. However, Army West Point never trailed during the extra five-minute frame on its way to claiming a thrilling victory.
Army built a 46-33 lead at halftime behind a season-high 55.9 percent from the field. Both teams shot over 55 percent from the field in the opening half, but the difference was Loyola’s 13 turnovers that led to 20 Black Knights points.
After four lead changes in the opening four minutes, Army gradually created separation behind its efficient shooting. With the score tied at 9-9 at the 15:50 mark, the Black Knights outscored the Greyhounds 24-9 over the next six minutes by going 9-for-10 from the field, including making 4 of 5 three-pointers. Loyola cut the lead to 37-31 with 3:16 left in the half, but Army closed the first half on a 9-2 run.
Army scored five straight points to start the second half for its largest lead of the game, 51-33. Loyola chipped away at the deficit for the remainder of the half as the Black Knights managed to score at key moments to keep the lead. Josh Caldwell twice scored layups in the final two minutes with the Black Knights nursing a one-point lead. The second layup made the score 68-65 with 35 seconds left in regulation.
On Loyola’s next possession, TJ Small blocked a 3-pointer by David Brown III with five seconds left. However, Army turned over the ball on the ensuing inbound to allow Loyola one more possession. The Greyhounds took advantage as Cam Spencer drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 68-68 as time expired.
The Black Knights were unfazed as they opened the overtime period with a 6-0 run. Army led 74-71 with 90 seconds left in overtime and relied on its defense to shut down the Greyhounds. The Black Knights made 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch and allowed only three points which were from a consolation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I’m as proud of our guys as I have ever been. Our quote going into the game “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy” and we talked about what happens in that situation. We put in a ton of preparation. We had a couple of games that we didn’t play great before the break. I thought our team continued to get better during that time and I thought they came back with a great attitude. We’re down to two starters (during the game) and I thought some other guys stepped up and we had a high level of resilience,” said Jimmy Allen.