**Note: There will be a Backcourt Club Luncheon on Thursday at noon at Matty's Sporthouse Grill in Lewisburg. Join coach Nathan Davis and the Bison seniors to chat about the season thus far and look ahead to the stretch drive. The $10 admission includes lunch.**
LEWISBURG, Pa. – Zach Thomas scored 25 of his 32 points after halftime, and Bucknell stormed back from a 19-point deficit to defeat Army West Point 83-71 in overtime on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. The first-place Bison won their ninth game in a row, improving to 16-8 overall and 10-1 in the Patriot League, and delivered head coach Nathan Davis his 200th career victory. Kimbal Mackenzie added 15 points for Bucknell and produced the biggest moment of the game, a 4-point play midway through the extra session that stretched Bucknell's lead to seven.
In addition to recording his third 30-point game of the season, Thomas added 11 rebounds and five steals. All five thefts came in big moments during the team's largest comeback win of the season. Nana Foulland added 15 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, and Stephen Brown had 11 points and a pair of steals, including one in the final 20 seconds of regulation that set up a wild finish.
Winners of 12 of their last 13 and and 16 of their last 20, the Bison comeback was painstaking and at times frustrating, as they battled back despite major second-half struggles at the free-throw line and from the 3-point arc. They dominated in overtime, however, holding the Black Knights to 0-for-7 shooting while outscoring them 15-3. Bucknell pulled out the win in a game that it led for just 7:52.
"Give Army and coach [Jimmy] Allen a ton of credit for the way they came out and really took it to us in the first half," said Davis. "They were the aggressors, and they deserved the lead that they had built. But you also need to give our guys a ton of credit for staying the course and fighting back. Our bench was into the game all night, and even though we couldn't get anything to drop for most of the night, we never quit and got back in the game by getting stops defensively. It's nice to win by big margins like we did the last two games, but those are normally the exceptions in college basketball. In conference play you need to be able to battle through games like these."
Down 38-19 with 5:03 left in the first half, Bucknell finally strung together some stops, holding Army (12-10, 5-6 PL) to just one field goal the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Mackenzie canned back-to-back 3-pointers -- Bucknell's first two of the night -- to cap an 11-2 run and close the gap to 10 at 40-30 at the break. Mackenzie hit another triple and Thomas scored six points, the last two coming on a steal and breakaway layup, as part of a 9-0 run in the second half that reduced the margin to one at 44-43, but then things stalled for a bit, and it would be another five minutes before the Bison could finally grab the lead.
Three straight Bucknell missed free throws kept Army in front, and then Alex King hit a 3-pointer to end the Black Knights' 6:38 scoreless drought and make it a four-point game. The Bison finally got it tied at 53 after Thomas split a pair of free throws after another steal, and then a Foulland blocked shot led to a Thomas layup and a 55-53 lead with 7:17 remaining. Army immediately responded with a Jordan Fox 3-point play, and then the teams traded baskets for the next three minutes.
Army scored on six straight possessoins, with successive layups by King and Tommy Funk putting the Black Knights back up by four at 66-62 with 3:50 left. Bucknell answered with two big free throws from Avi Toomer -- he was 8-for-8 from the stripe -- and then a steal and lefty finish by Thomas to tie it again at 66 with 1:27 to go. After two Funk free throws for Army, Foulland scored in the paint to make it 68-68 with 44 seconds left.
After a timeout, Brown smothered an entry pass on the wing and fed Foulland for what appeared to be a breakaway, but a shove from behind was deemed to be an intentional foul. Foulland could not get either free throw to drop -- Bucknell as a team was just 9-for-19 from the line in the second half -- but the Bison still had a final possession with 0:19 on the clock. Thomas slithered down the lane from the top of the key, but he ran into traffic at the rim and his shot would not go as time expired.
Army led once in overtime, at 70-69 after two free throws by Tucker Blackwell. Foulland finished a feed from Thomas to give the Bison the lead back, kicking off a 14-1 run to end the game. Thomas hit two free throws and then rebounded an Army miss. Bucknell ran some clock, overloaded the right side of the floor, and then Brown rifled a cross-court pass to Mackenzie, who buried the left-wing trey while getting knocked to the floor. His free throw made it 77-70 with 2:21 left.
Brown scored on a runout, Thomas hit two free throws followed by another steal and layup to close out the scoring.
Bucknell is now 2-0 in overtime games this season, and it did not concede a field goal in OT in either game. The Bison held Lafayette to 0-for-8 shooting in an 80-75 win in Easton back on Jan. 8.
Mackenzie was the only Bison to make a 3-pointer in this one. He was 4-for-9 from the arc en route to a season-high 15 points, but the rest of the squad was 0-for-11. Bucknell shot 44.3 percent overall and overcame 17 turnovers. But it forced 19 Army turnovers and outscored the Black Knights 25-9 at the foul line (Bucknell 25-38; Army 9-10).
The Black Knights appeared to be heading for a runaway in the early going. While Bucknell was struggling to get shots to fall, Army was rolling. A 15-0 run gave them a stunning 17-6 lead, and by the time Blackwell canned back-to-back treys around the six-minute mark, it was 36-17. Luke Morrison's six-footer made it 38-19, but the Black Knights went 1-for-3 with seven turnovers in the final five minutes, and Bucknell outscored the visitors 64-33 over the remainder of the game.
After starting the night 17-for-28 (.607), Army was just 11-for-41 (.268) the rest of the way. Army finished at 40.6 percent overall and 6-for-20 from long range.
The Patriot League's leading scorer and rebounder, Thomas put the team on his back for long stretches. He topped the 30-point mark for the third time this season, with the others coming at Monmouth (31) and Stony Brook (38), and his 32 points matched Chris Hass for the most ever at Sojka Pavilion by a Bucknell player. It was his 13th 20-point game and 11th double-double of the campaign. The national leader in free-throw attempts went 12-for-15 at the line, his 11th game this season with double-digit attempts. Thomas also vaulted from 11th all the way up to eighth on Bucknell's career scoring list with 1,533 points, passing Mike Joseph, Cameron Ayers and Chris McNaughton. He is just two shy of Jaye Andrews for the No. 7 spot. Thomas also became the 13th Bison to eclipse 700 career rebounds.
Meanwhile, Foulland became the fifth Bucknell player to record at least 1,600 points (1,601).
Bucknell's nine-game winning streak is its longest since a 12-game run in 2011-12. It was also the team's ninth straight win over Army, and the Bison are now 100-25 in Patriot League play since the start of the 2010-11 season.
Davis is now 59-31 in three seasons at Bucknell after posting a 141-39 mark in six seasons as head coach at Randolph-Macon. He is 200-70 (.741) as a collegiate coach.
Five Black Knights finished in double figures, led by Funk with 13 points. He also had eight assists and three steals. Matt Wilson had 12 points and nine rebounds, Fox and King had 11 points each, and Blackwell tallied 10.
With Boston University winning at home against Loyola, Bucknell's Patriot League lead remains two games over the Terriers. Colgate entered the night in a tie for second place but fell on the road at Lafayette. Bucknell will host the Leopards on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.