Explaining the basketball play of the American Eagles over the last month is almost impossible. When Army beat American in the first meeting of the two teams this season 65-45 it put the Eagles at 2-15 on the season and they were riding a 10 game losing streak. The, starting with the very next game against Lafayette, the Eagles blew up. They rattled off five straight wins, including a 69-55 beat down of Patriot League leaders Bucknell. Since that win over the Bison though, American has dropped two straight decisions by a combined 43 points.
That being said here is a look forward to the three keys for the game on Saturday:
1. Be efficient offensively
When American went on its five game win streak it was keyed by their high level defensive play. During the last three games of that period the Eagles limited their opponents to an average of just 39% shooting. This included limiting the electric Bucknell offense to just 37% from the field and, crucially, to 0-of-15 from behind the arc. In their latest game against Boston U however the Eagles allowed the Terriers to shoot 52% from the field and go 8-of-14 from behind the arc. Against this team it is not going to be a matter of how many shots Army takes, but more about the quality of those shots.
2. Force turnovers
It makes sense that, generally, whoever commits the fewest turnovers in a basketball game has the upper hand when it comes to winning the game. This was certainly true for American when they hit their win streak as suddenly they were only turning the ball over 12.4 times per game, which was second best in the league behind Holy Cross over that stretch. Against Boston U the Eagles turned the ball over 16 times, including a number of bad turnovers just as Boston was putting its game deciding run together. Army will be better off in this game if they can pressure the ball and force mistakes out of the Eagles.
3. Contain Jesse Reed
To say American is not a deep team is something of an understatement. The Eagles have exactly four players who average more than 3.8 points per game, so shutting down one of their options makes the team fall apart. Jesse Reed should be the man Army watch closest as the senior leads American in points (12.3), rebounds (3.9) and assists (2.0) per game. If the threat of Reed is neutralized then it is hard to see any way that American scores enough points to beat an Army squad that averages over 24 points per game more than their opponent. American is 350th out of the 351 Division I schools in points per game at 55.2 ppg.