WEST POINT - For the ninth consecutive season, Army women’s basketball began Patriot League play with a win, defeating Bucknell for the second consecutive year, 68-60, Saturday afternoon at Christl Arena. Three Black Knights scored in double figures led by senior Anna Simmers’ 22, while junior Jen Hazlett recorded her first double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Bucknell (9-7, 0-1 Patriot League) entered the game as the top rebounding team in the conference with Army ranked second, but the Black Knights (12-4, 1-0 PL) stepped up to the task by out-rebounding the Bison, 38-36. Army improved to 9-2 this year when winning the battle of the boards. Hazlett’s 11 caroms were the most by an Army player on the day, and the most by the Syracuse, Utah, native since Feb. 15, 2012 - the last time she notched a double-double.
Army shot over 40 percent for the seventh time this season, totaling a 42.9-percent clip, including 39.1 percent from outside. Army improved to 7-0 when shooting above 40 percent.
Simmers had the hot hand early, totaling a game-high 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting as Army took a nine-point lead (31-22) into halftime. The Black Knight defense made things difficult for the Bison, who turned it over on four consecutive possessions midway through the period and seven times through the first 20 minutes. Bucknell made just one three-pointer per half, as Army drained nine for the game.
The Bison scored just eight seconds into the second half en route to a 6-0 run to trim Army’s lead to three, 31-28, before head coach Dave Magarity called for a timeout. Despite turning it over out of the break, the Black Knights eventually collected themselves and went on a 7-0 run, including five points by freshman Kelsey Minato, who went on to finish with 18.
Army’s lead reached double figures with 14:28 remaining after Minato made all three free-throws after being hacked on a long-distance attempt, and got as high as 18 after the under-eight media timeout.
Bucknell would not go away, however, as the Bison began chipping away at Army’s lead with 3:30 remaining. BU went on a 9-0 run during a two-minute span as Army’s once-cushy lead dwindled to five with 50 seconds remaining. The Black Knights scored just nine points through the final seven minutes compared to Bison’s 19.
Bucknell played the foul game in the final minute, and despite shooting just 3-for-6 from the line in the final seconds, Army hung on for the eight-point win, due in part to the Bison’s inability to make threes (2-of-12 for the game).
Bucknell also boasted a trio of double-digit scorers led by Audrey Dotson’s 19 points and followed by Shelby Romine with 16 and Alyssa Dunn with 11. Lindsay Horbatuck snagged a game-high 12 rebounds, while Romine was credited with a game-best seven assists.
"That’s on us, this team is going to give me cardiac arrest," joked head coach Dave Magarity after the game regarding Bucknell’s comeback. "We were up by as many as 18 and you know, give Bucknell a tremendous amount of credit – they’re not going to stop playing, they’re not going to pack it in. They kept coming at us.
"That’s probably the best Ciara Jackson has played in her career," continued Magarity. "This was a huge game for us because she gave us solid minutes, she just has to finish some things. I’m disappointed in our free-throw shooting down the stretch, but all-in-all, we put ourselves in great position to win this game. We have to get better. I’m disappointed with our defense – you certainly can’t fault our offense today.
"I thought our rebounding was huge today – to out-rebound them is amazing, especially since they’re averaging a margin of over 11 more than their opponents. That was a huge difference in tonight’s game."
The Black Knights will hit the road for their next game, a Wednesday-night showdown at Lafayette.