Army hoops playing to the level of competition happily welcomes Steven Di Spigna to its staff today. Steven will give weekly updates of the Army basketball program. This week Army is getting ready for a tough trip to Big East power Notre Dame.

Record: 2-6

Recent games: defeated N.Y. Maritime, 75-59; lost to Albany, 73-46; lost to St. Francis (N.Y.), 74-68.

Scoring leaders: Matt Bell (19 ppg), Colin Harris (11.1 ppg).

Rebounding leader: Colin Harris (4.9 rpg), Matt Bell (3.9 rpg).

Next up this week: at Notre Dame on December 19 at 1:00 p.m.; at Fairleigh Dickinson on December 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Notes: Army has split the month of December, with two wins against Division III competition, sandwiched around two losses to other area Division I schools.

Army dominated an overmatched and outclassed Division III opponent, Polytechnic, on December 1. Colin Harris clearly outplayed the Polytechnic front line, scoring 19 points and dominating on the boards. Matt Bell's leadership along with Corey Sinning's toughness also contributed to a nice win.

Army visited the small confines of Brooklyn Heights on Saturday, December 4 to take on a much tougher St. Francis (N.Y.) team. St. Francis has already defeated St. John's on the road this year, and also lost to Seton Hall by only 1 point at the Meadowlands. Still, Army came out on fire, taking a 29-17 lead in the first half. At this point, however, St. Francis turned up the defensive pressure, employing a full court press. Unfortunately, the Army hoopsters had trouble handling this, as St. Francis (N.Y.) reeled off 12 points in a row, and ended up tying the first half. The second half was all Tristan Smith, a St. John's transfer, who proved too tough to handle. He hit everything he threw at the basket, and before you know it, Army went down to defeat 78-64. The stars of the game had to be Matt Bell and Corey Sinning. Bell is already proving his high school success was not a fluke, and will be the leading scorer at Army this year. With the team's dependency on him, he could even break into the top 5 in the Patriot League overall. Sinning also showed toughness and can occasionally score as a second option.

Army came home tired and lost to a tough and improved Albany. The game was basically over at halftime (41-18). Once again, Matt Bell paced the Cadets in double figures with 14. Sinning was the second leading scorer with 9. The rest of the night was a revolving door of personnel. Too many turnovers (23), not enough rebounding and poor shooting are usually ingredients to a big loss, and that's exactly what happened.

The Cadets rounded out a tough stretch of their schedule with an unexpectedly tough 75-59 win over a Division III opponent, New York Maritime. Colin Harris once again proved he could score against smaller frontlines as he had a strong offensive game. Matt Bell posted double figures yet again, and Travis Owsley provided good leadership and shooting in the first part of the second half to ice the win. Luke Slater also showed some nice moves around the basket, and seems to gain confidence and gets better with every outing. At the same time, the New York Maritime center Robert Benton was only 6-3, yet burned us for 25 points. The N.Y. Maritime squad is nowhere near the level of Patriot League competition.

Army is 2-6 so far this year, but 0-6 against Division I competition. The Cadets need to improve their interior defense and must get better at their ability to beat the press. The Patriot League opener against Colgate on January 8 is less than a month away. Coach Crews and his players still have a lot of work to do. They face a very tough Big East opponent on the road on December 19 in Notre Dame, who will certainly be a fierce test, particularly after losing their first game at home to DePaul on December 11. Army closes out the calendar year against the Knights of Farleigh Dickinson, who've won their last two games, and have played two Pac-10 opponents (California and Arizona State) very tough. Army will have to be on their game to battle these two tough foes.

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