---- — By Todd Stanford
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Army had the lead for a only few moments in the second half of Wednesday's Patriot League quarterfinal with Bucknell. But as it turned out, that was enough for the Black Knights.
Kyle Wilson hit a turnaround jumper with 12.5 seconds left for the game's final points, as Army escaped Sojka Pavilion with a 72-71 victory.
The defending-champion Bison, who entered the tournament on a six-game winning streak, end their season at 16-14.
"It's a devastating loss," said Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen, whose team failed to reach the league final for the first time since 2010. "We've got a lot of guys that are just despondent in that locker room."
The fifth-seeded Black Knights were the only road team to win in Wednesday's quarterfinals; Army (15-15) will travel to top-seeded Boston University on Saturday for a semifinal clash.
"This win, because it's against Bucknell, shows the progress we've been making," Black Knights coach Zach Spiker said. "For us to be one of the final four in our conference tournament ... it's another sign of progress."
Bucknell led for nearly the entire second half. When Wilson's jumper fell, the Bison found themselves trailing for the first time since late in the first half. After a timeout, freshman guard John Azzinaro brought the ball up the court and tried to get it inside to Brian Fitzpatrick. The ball was slapped away, but Azzinaro got it back and threw it to Chris Hass in the corner. Hass' 3-pointer hit the rim and bounced away as the buzzer sounded.
"We wanted (Azzinaro) to drive it and kick it to either Cam (Ayers) or Hass," Paulsen said when asked about the team's final possession. "Obviously it didn't work."
The fourth-seeded Bison lost despite shooting 45.6 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc; they also outrebounded Army by 15 (42-27).
But the Black Knights rallied behind some sharp shooting of their own (48 percent from the floor) and a tenacious defense, as they forced the Bison into 17 turnovers -- just one short of Bucknell's season-high.
"We're fortunate to get out of here," Spiker said. "One of the big contributing factors was our pressure in the second half."
Hass had a team-high 18 points for the Bison, while Ayers -- who was named the Patriot League Player of the Year on Monday -- scored 12, and Dom Hoffman added 10. Wilson led all scorers with 19 points, while teammates Dylan Cox and Kevin Ferguson tacked on 11 and 10, respectively.
Army led by as many as 11 in the first half before Bucknell came storming back. With Ayers on the bench getting a rest, the Bison went on a 10-2 run to get within two at 32-30. Hass hit two treys in the surge.
With 1:48 to go before halftime, Ryan Frazier nailed a 3-pointer that gave Bucknell a lead it would not relinquish until late in the game.
The Bison went into the break with a 39-36 advantage and led by as many as eight in the second half. When Hass dribbled from the left wing to the far low block for a layup with 2:56 to go, the lead was at seven, 70-63.
But the Black Knights chipped away at the lead. They forced two key turnovers in those final three minutes, the second of which led to a Wilson 3-pointer that tied the game at 70 with 1:03 to go.
"We played great defensively down the stretch," Wilson said. "That's the goal of our 'Black Press' every time: to wear them down."
Fitzpatrick collected an offensive rebound off an Ayers miss on Bucknell's next possession, and the senior forward was fouled. Fitzpatrick made the first shot for a 71-70 Bucknell advantage, but then missed the second.
"I had the opportunity to knock down those two free throws," Fitzpatrick said. "I've got to knock that down."
Army then won it on its next possession when Wilson buried his jumper.
"We drew up a play that we've run a bunch of times," Wilson said. "(I got) a great driving lane, and luckily the ball went in for us."