WEST POINT, N.Y. – In its best offensive performance of the season, Bucknell shot 58.3 percent and cruised past Army West Point 96-75 on Saturday afternoon in front of a large bi-partisan crowd at Christl Arena. Kimbal Mackenzie scored 23 points, and frontcourt mates Nana Foulland (19) and Zach Thomas (17) combined for 36 on 16-for-22 shooting to help the Bison to a season-best five-game winning streak.
Now 17-6 overall and 9-1 in the Patriot League, Bucknell also captured its sixth straight road win, which is its longest streak away from home since 2011-12. The Bison moved to 8-4 on the road this season and maintained at least a two-game lead in the Patriot League standings.
Bucknell had its best opening half of the campaign, hitting 19 of 29 shots, including 6 of 9 from long distance, and took a 52-36 lead to the locker room. It was the team’s highest first-half point total since scoring 53 at home against Army last season. The Bison would lead by as many as 25 in the second half and cruise to their top scoring ledger since a 98-71 win over Holy Cross in early January of last season.
This was Bucknell’s highest point total against Army since a 98-72 win in Davis Gym in 1994, Charlie Woollum’s final season as head coach, and it was the team’s top output ever in a game at West Point.
“I’d say this might have been our best performance of the season,” praised head coach Nathan Davis after his team matched last season’s victory total with more than a month still to go. “We moved the ball really well and knocked down open shots. We know that Army is a very dangerous offensive team that can score in bunches, so no lead is safe against them. We were active defensively and did a good job turning defense into offense. They made a little run at the start of the second half, but we responded well.”
Stephen Brown was Bucknell’s fourth double-digit scorer with 14 points, a dozen of them coming from a career-high four 3-pointers. Freshman Avi Toomer had a superb game, finishing with eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals with no turnovers. He also led a terrific defensive effort on Army’s top scorer, Jordan Fox, who was held to five points on 2-for-8 shooting. Fox torched the Bison for 26 in this season’s earlier meeting, an 84-76 Bucknell win at Sojka Pavilion.
The Bison hit their first four shots of the day, including 3-pointers by Brown and Toomer, followed by a steal and fastbreak layup by Toomer. That made it a 10-2 lead after only 3:21 of action. D.J. MacLeay put back a rare Bucknell miss and turned it into a 3-point play, pushing the margin into double figures for the first time at 17-5.
Foulland sat much of the first eight minutes after picking up a quick foul, but then he came back in and hit three straight shots to keep the offense rolling. Later Foulland converted his own 3-point play, picking up the third foul on Army’s No. 2 scorer Matt Wilson in the process, and gave Bucknell its largest lead of the half at 45-27.
John Amezie scored with a neat reverse layup with five seconds left for Army, but Bucknell quickly inbounded. Mackenzie raced down the floor and finished a layup at the buzzer to make it a 16-point game at intermission.
Army, the No. 2 scoring team in the Patriot League coming in, opened the second half with a 9-2 run to close within nine at 54-45. Thomas answered with a hard drive to the basket for a 3-point play, which ignited a key 10-1 run the other way. Foulland grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a long outlet pass to Mackenzie for a layup, and then Foulland’s 3-point play around the under-16 media timeout pushed the margin back to 18 at 64-46.
It was a fast-paced affair the rest of the way. Foulland hammered a two-handed dunk off a nice high-low feed from Nate Sestina, and then Brown hit back-to-back treys from the top of the key followed by a pair of free throws to push the margin all the way up to 25 at 80-55.
The only suspense left was whether Bucknell could top the 100-point mark on the road for the first time in 30 years. When Brown missed a jumper at the 3:54 mark, it was the first time all day that the team’s field-goal percentage dipped under 60 percent. Thomas’ bucket made it 95-72 with 2:33 left, but the Bison could not quite get to the century mark.
“We are very pleased to be where we are, but our guys understand how much season is left in front of us and we just have to play one game at a time,” said Davis. “As well as we played today, we can still improve in a lot of areas, and we are going to have to do so in order to get where we want to be.”
Bucknell’s starting five finished 32-for-51 (.627) from the field. Foulland (8-10) and Thomas (8-12) were effective in the low post, and Mackenzie hit 9 of 13 shots, including 3 of 5 from the arc, en route to his fourth 20-point game of the season. Thomas also had a team-high six assists.
The Bison went 9-for-20 from 3-point range, including a first-half trey by Nate Jones on his first shot of the game. Jones returned to the lineup after missing the last nine games with an injury.
Bucknell finished with a 38-30 rebounding advantage, led by Foulland with seven.
Tommy Funk had a team-high 14 points and six assists for Army. Reserve Jason Houle came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers and score his first 12 points of the season, and Mac Hoffman also tallied 12.
Bucknell returns home on Wednesday to face American at 7 p.m.