By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
The best way to understand the final, decisive minutes of Saturday night’s Bucknell/Army game is to surmise that the Black Knights’ Anna Simmers simply forgot she was playing at Sojka Pavilion. Because, up until those final minutes, no one on either team could hit much of anything.
Simmers scored eight points in the final three minutes of the game as Army prevailed, 44-35, in Patriot League action. It was the Black Knights’ fourth straight victory over the Bison and second this season.
“We just didn’t execute,” Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said. “I’ll say this partly tongue-in-cheek: We were hard to watch.”
Simmers and Kelsey Minato each scored a team-high 14 points for Army (17-6, 6-2 PL), which remained in a second-place tie in the Patriot League with American. Bucknell (13-10, 4-4) got a game-high 16 points from Shelby Romine, who went over 1,000 career points on a pair of free throws in the second half.
“I don’t like to think about that stuff,” Romine said. “The most important thing to me is coming out there and getting a win. It’s tough that you get a personal achievement on a night when you didn’t perform as a team.”
Neither team shot over 30 percent for the game. The Bison shot 26.7 percent for the night (12-for-45), while the Black Knights connected on just 26.2 percent of their shots (16-for-61). It was Bucknell’s lowest point total of the season by far: Their previous low was 50 points in a 50-49 win over Lafayette last month.
“Army can do this to some people,” Roussell said. “They made us uncomfortable; they made their presence felt on the defensive end.”
Despite the poor shooting percentage, the Bison were in the game right up until the end. They were within one at 32-31 after Felicia Mgbada made one of two from the foul line with 3:32 to play.
After each team came up empty on its next possession, Simmers drove to the hole and made a layup as she fell to the ground. Following a missed shot on the other end by Mgbada, Simmers buried a 3-pointer to give Army a 37-31 lead — its biggest advantage to that point.
“I thought we really did a nice job on Simmers,” Roussell said. “Then, bang-bang, she hits two threes. ... She hit some big buckets late.”
Bucknell wasn’t done yet. Romine made a layup and then got the ball again after a steal by Lindsay Horbatuck. Romine took it to the hoop again and scored to get Bucknell within two, 37-35, with 1:26 to play.
But Simmers answered with another trey. After Romine missed a 3-pointer of her own, the Bison began fouling, and Minato made four foul shots in the closing seconds to seal it.
“We just couldn’t score,” Romine said. “We weren’t executing our offense like we do in practice.”
Bucknell struggled inside, as its pair of 6-foot-1 forwards — Horbatuck and Audrey Dotson — combined for just five points, all in the first half. Entering the game, that duo was averaging 20 points per game.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort,” Roussell said. “I’ll take those kids any day. They didn’t play well, and they know it. They’re going to come back ... and play well.”