WEST POINT – This rivalry matchup didn't disappoint.
Army men's basketball bested Marist, 65-61 at Christl Arena on Saturday. With the win, the Black Knights improve to 4-2 on the season and the Red Foxes drop to 2-3.
The two teams were knotted at 27 going into halftime. The Black Knights opened the second half strong. Jared Cross knocked down a 3-pointer and Jalen Rucker showed finesse going to the rim twice, which set the tone the rest of the way. Army never gave up the lead after taking it in the second half. They would open up a 10-point lead with 13:47 left in the second half.
Army goes up by 10 on this 3-pointer from Jared Cross. Marist takes a timeout. Army is up by 10, 39-29. Army's largest lead of the game. 13:47 left in the second half. pic.twitter.com/l1xJD975oy
— Melissa Kramer (@MKramerTHR) November 27, 2021
But Marist showed strong energy and didn't give in, despite being able to go up on top.
Marist head coach John Dunne praised freshmen Jao Ituka and Noah Harris for their efforts down the stretch off the bench. Ituka finished with 12 points and Harris added 11.
"Ultimately, honestly, I don’t even think the game would have been close if it wasn’t for those two coming in today giving us great energy," Dunne said.
Dunne said his team struggled with getting the ball inside the paint, which was the opposite issue in the last game, a win against VMI.
Army head coach Jimmy Allen credited the ability to stop Marist's dribble penetration as a key to his team's win.
“I thought it was a terrific basketball game in what I think has become a rivalry for the area," Allen said.
Coming out of the half, the Army offense showed its stuff. The Black Knights would outscore the Red Foxes 9-2 to open the second half of play and take their largest lead of the game up to that point at 36-29 after Josh Caldwell found Matt Dove who threw it down with a slam dunk. Marist was able to keep it close, but Army was able to hold the lead and they did not lose it the entire second half.
Player of the game
Jalen Rucker notched a game-high 24 points. He went 9-for-14 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also contributed four rebounds and two steals. Rucker had 17 second-half points which fueled Army.
"In the first half we were dribbling too much and playing into their defensive strategy," Rucker said. "In the second half we just wanted to move the ball more, get them moving and not be easy to guard. Once we were able to get out in transition a couple of times, we were able to get some wide-open shots and luckily my teammates found me.”
By the numbers
Army (4-2) – Jalen Rucker scored a game-high 24 points and went 9-for-14 from the field. Jared Cross finished with eight points, including two crucial second-half 3-pointers. Charlie Peterson grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
Marist (2-3) – Freshman Jao Ituka had a team-high 12 points and went 6-for-11 from the field. Matthew Herasme added 11 points, five rebounds and two assists. Noah Harris contributed 11 points and four rebounds. Samkelo Cele was strong with nine points and five rebounds.
“I thought in the first half and as a credit to Marist and how good they are defensively, we were a little bit impatient and I thought we were just putting the ball on the floor too much, instead of really getting it moving. We talked a lot about that at halftime. I thought the key was us being able to get out in transition and just get some guys free in transition. I thought Jared [Cross] knocked down some really tough looks early in the second half that kind of got us going and gave us a little bit of confidence. Then we were able to get into a little bit more of a rhythm and execute a few things. We had some actions that we had talked about, I thought our guys did a really good job at executing, especially in moments when we really needed a basket.” - Army head coach Jimmy Allen on the keys to the victory.
“I thought we did enough on the defensive end over the course of the game to win the game. I thought we started the second half too sluggishly, but other than that, I thought we competed for a good 35 minutes on the defensive end. But you have to put the ball in the basket to win games. We have to take a hard look at the shots we’re taking, what we’re getting and what we can do better." Marist head coach John Dunne said on the loss.
Army will host Siena College in a non-conference matchup on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Marist will be home against Iona in their first MAAC matchup of the season on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Army men's basketball knocks off Marist with strong second half