RECAP: Army Opens Up Conference Play with Win over Pre-Season Favourite Lehigh, 88-82

Tanner Plomb has scored in double-figures in 23 straight games, dating back to last season, after putting up 22 points in Army's 88-82 win over Lehigh to open up conference play.
Tanner Plomb has scored in double-figures in 23 straight games, dating back to last season, after putting up 22 points in Army’s 88-82 win over Lehigh to open up conference play.

In their last time out, the Army West Point Black Knights made a statement by closing out non-conference play with a win over the Monmouth Hawks. That pushed Army’s record to 9-3, and sent them into Patriot League action on a high note.

With the momentum squarely in their corner, the Black Knights went on the road to Bethlehem, PA to take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks to open up conference play. The Mountain Hawks entered the season as the pre-season favourite in the conference, but struggled to a 2-9 record in non-conference play.

Wednesday night provided both teams with a perfect opportunity to make a statement and solidify themselves as a top contender in the conference this season. Only one team could come out on top, and the seasonal trends for both teams would continue.

The Army West Point Black Knights went on the road, and came away with their second-straight statement win with the 88-82 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

With star-studded rosters on both sides of the ball, Wednesday night’s contest could very well be a conference final preview if all goes according to plan for both the Black Knights and the Mountain Hawks.

The teams went shot-for-shot in the opening two minutes, culminating with a jumper from Kahron Ross that gave Lehigh an early 7-6 lead.

Just like in their game against Monmouth, the Black Knights reeled off a 17-2 run that broke things open in the first half. A three-pointer from Kyle Wilson got the run started, and Larry Toomey pushed Army’s lead to 23-9 on a three-pointer of his own at the 12:31 mark.

Army would continue to build on their lead as the half wore on, and Mac Hoffman pushed the lead to 20 points with a three-pointer of his own with 7 minutes left in the half.

Lehigh would continue to chip away as the half came to an end, closing on a mini 9-3 run to build some momentum heading into the break. Four different players scored in the run, including Ross and star forward Tim Kempton.

Despite the run, Army still led 45-34 at the break, and showed no signs of slowing down in the second stanza.

Lehigh opened the second half on a 7-2 run to cut into the lead, capped off by a three-pointer from Austin Price. Army would push the lead back to double-figures as quick as Lehigh cut into the deficit, scoring two quick baskets to push the lead back to 11.

Tanner Plomb started to heat up as the second half moved along, hitting back-to-back jumpers with just under 9 minutes to go in the game to keep Army at a comfortable distance.

Then, with Lehigh inching closer to the lead, Plomb connected on a three-pointer with 1:34 left in the contest to put Army in front by a score of 83-74, putting the game to rest in the process.

Thanks to some strong free throw shooting in the closing minutes from Plomb and Kevin Ferguson, the Black Knights were able to offset back-to-back three pointers from Austin Price in the dying seconds of the game to cone away victorious.

At the final buzzer, the Army West Point Black Knights came away with the 88-82 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

Tanner Plomb continued to make his case for strong Patriot League Player of the Year consideration. He has scored in double-figures in every game this season, and 23 straight games in total dating back to last season. He put up a team-high 23 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 5 assists in the win.

Kyle Wilson added 17 points, and Adam Roe added 11 points and 3 rebounds off the bench in the victory.

As for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, they showed some promise despite finding themselves on the wrong end of another close decision. Big man Tim Kempton scored a career-high 28 points to go along with 5 rebounds in the loss. If he can keep up this kind of production over the next two months, Lehigh will be just fine in the Patriot League race.

Kahron Ross pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds to go along with his 6 points, while Austin Price added 22 points of his own in a losing effort.

Looking Ahead

The win was the second-straight signature win for the Army West Point Black Knight (10-3, 1-0), and they have solidified themselves as a top contender for the Patriot League title. Army will open the New Year with a date against another top contender in the conference when they face off against the Bucknell Bison on January 2nd.

The loss marked the second-straight defeat for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-10, 0-1), and their third over their last four games. The talent is there for the team to be successful, but the results haven’t matched as of yet. Lehigh will look to turn an new leaf in 2016, and it all starts on January 2nd when they play host to the Boston Univ. Terriers.

– T.B.

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