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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Bulls Escape West Point

Byron Mulkey Hits Game Winner

The men's basketball team traveled to West Point on Wednesday looking to remain undefeated in the state of New York this season.

They did just that, barely.

The Bulls (4-2) outlasted the Army Black Knights (4-3), 56-54. Senior point guard Byron Mulkey saved the day with a clutch jumper from the foul line with 12.3 seconds left to ensure the victory.

A rough first half, which saw the Bulls commit 18 turnovers, proved to be the clear-cut problem. Bulls head coach Reggie Witherspoon was not happy with the team's lack of focus in the first half, but he took some solace in the way they responded in the second half.

"[Committing] 23 turnovers is way too many," Witherspoon said. "It's one of the rare games you'll see where a team has more turnovers and less rebounds and still wins."

The Bulls were able to overcome their first half turnover woes by taking better care of the ball after the break. Witherspoon attributed the adjustment to going with his top lineup.

"One of the things we did was shorten our rotation a bit," Witherspoon said. "We played quite a few people in the first half. But it's a process and it's not because [the younger guys] aren't good players. They're just growing."

Mulkey scored 10 points and added three more steals to his nation-leading total. He had seven rebounds, the last of which came off of a miss by Army forward Ella Ellis on a shot that would have tied the game.

The backcourt tandem of Mulkey and junior shooting guard Zach Filzen played 76 minutes in the win. Filzen added three more trifectas to his season total and led the Bulls in scoring with 14 points. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists in the win.

Witherspoon really liked what he saw out of his two upperclassmen guards.

"Byron was extremely composed throughout most of the game," Witherspoon said. "Zach did the same thing. He was composed and able to play hard. Both those guys really stepped up and took the challenge."

The play of Mulkey and Filzen was nicely complimented by a breakout performance by junior forward Mitchell Watt. Watt has struggled at times this season to get things going, but he scored six of the Bulls' first nine points to set the pace, as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game.

Watt finished the game with 12 points, eight rebounds, and five blocked shots to lead a solid defensive effort for the Bulls. Witherspoon feels the team's defensive effort has been consistent all season.

"The one thing that's been consistent is that our defensive pressure has been pretty good," Witherspoon said. "I don't know that [Army] ever got comfortable, and this is a team that scores a lot of points. I think we were able to get them out of their rhythm a bit."

The Bulls were outrebounded in the game 43-36, and they allowed the Black Knights to grab 23 offensive boards. After the game, Witherspoon struggled to remember a time when a team he coached gave up so many offensive rebounds.

Coming into the game, Army's junior guard Julian Simmons led the team in scoring, averaging over 20 points per game. The Bulls shut down Simmons, forcing him to shoot 1-for-14 in the game. He finished with only 10 points, eight of which were recorded at the free-throw line.

Black Knights senior forward Jeremy Hence scored 21 points in the loss. He also tallied 11 rebounds, earning a double-double.

The Bulls renew their Big Four rivalry on Saturday, when they travel to Olean, N.Y. to play the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (3-2) at 7 p.m.

E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com


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