Army advanced to the semi-finals of the Patriot League Tournament with a 79-72 victory over Colgate on Thursday night. The Black Knights broke open a tight contest with an 8-2 run capped by two Tanner Plomb free throws with 1:12 remaining that gave Army a 10 point lead at 72-62. Army now goes on to face ninth seeded Holy cross who caused one of the upsets of the season in beating top-seeded Bucknell 77-72 in double overtime.
Here is a look back at the three keys:
1. Trust the starters – Pass
Army has one of the shortest benches in the entire country and this proved to be the case again against Colgate as head coach Zack Spiker went with the guys who have made Army so good this season. Tanner Plomb, Larry Toomey, Kevin Ferguson, Kyle Wilson and Dylan Cox all played for at least 31 minutes in the victory, while no bench player saw more than nine minutes of action. As a result 70 of the Black Knights 79 points came from the starting five, as did 12 of the 14 assists. The fate of the Black Knights season is tied to the five starters, but you have a feeling that at some point during this run a bench player will have to step up and make a difference.
2. Get Kevin Ferguson the ball in the post – Pass
Kevin Ferguson shots the best percentage in the history of the Patriot League and his shooting percentage only got better in this win over the Raiders. Ferguson came in shooting 61.2% from the field for his Army career, then proceeded to go 7-of-9, or 77.8% in the win. Ferguson just knows exactly what shots he can make and, perhaps more importantly, what shots he cannot. As a result there are very few wasted possessions when Army works the ball inside to the big center. Ferguson had 10 rebounds to go along with his 19 points, good for yet another double-double.
3. Stop Austin Tillotson – Pass
All Patriot League First Team member Austin Tillotson was held below his season average by some dogged and determined Army defensive pressure. Tillotson came in averaging 17.4 points per game in league play, but was held to 14 points on the night on 6-of-14 shooting. Tellingly the Raiders guard was just 2-of-6 from the free throw line, suggesting that Army had successfully made him uncomfortable with a relentless defensive effort.