The Black Knights fought very hard in a tough 58-51 loss to the Big Red of Cornell on January 2. Army led at halftime 23-20, and actually still held a lead with less than 3 minutes left in the game. However, Lenny Collins scored 3 of his game-high 18 points to give Cornell a 50-48 lead, and the Big Red never trailed again. Army won the battle of the boards vs. Cornell, 30-20. Another major positive was sinking 16 out of 17 from the free throw line. However, turnovers again proved to be Army's undoing as they gave Cornell the ball 19 times (compared to 8 Big Red turnovers).
Army followed up two nights later with a 75-59 home loss to a very improved Columbia squad. Columbia has almost matched their win total from last season already, and has defeated two schools (Sacred Heart and St. Francis NY) that have defeated Army this year. Army and Columbia traded baskets throughout a high-scoring first half. Columbia finally pulled out to a 38-34 lead at halftime, despite some hot shooting by Army. However, Columbia stepped up their defensive intensity at the start of the second half, extending their lead to 60-44 with 10 minutes left to play. Army played well, but eventually succumbed to the Columbia Lions' strong defense and hot shooting from behind the arc (43 percent). One major factor behind Army's demise in the second half was their failure to get to the free throw line (vs. 11 for 12 shooting in the first half). Army once again lost the battle of turnovers (16-14) and rebounds (35-19) to a superior Division I opponent.
Personal highlights from the Columbia match-up include Travis Owsley's season-high 13 points (including three 3-pointers). Marshall Jackson also played his best game of the year, contributing 9 first-half points and 4 rebounds.
Army has yet to find the victory circle against Division I opponents this year, but they are starting to play more competitively as they head into the Patriot League season. They open the season against the Red Raiders of Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y. on Saturday, January 8. Army's home opener follows on Wednesday, January 12 against Holy Cross. While these are two tough games, the team's recent improved play gives hope that it can potentially win one (or both) of these contests.
Best of luck to Coach Crews and his squad as they embark on their league campaign.