Army mens hoopsters drop two tough games at home

Army played extremely well this past weekend, but fell just short in both contests. Army lost 69-64 to Lehigh on Friday night, and dropped another heartbreaker against Lafayette, 76-73, on Sunday afternoon. Army definitely showed vastly improved play, but the two tough losses bring their record to 1-10 in the Patriot League (3-20 overall) with 3 league contests remaining.

The lead changed hands several times during the Friday night contest against Lehigh. It was "80's night" at Christl Arena, and the support of the "Spirit" Band and cheerleaders helped spur the Cadets on. Army led 13-12 with 10 minutes left in the 1st half, sparked by an unlikely source, freshman Jarell Brown, who hit two from beyond the arc. The play continued back and forth, with Army leading 24-21 with about 4 minutes left. Lehigh then stepped up their defense, holding the Cadets scoreless for the remainder of the half, and led 25-24 at halftime.

After a Lehigh bucket, Grant Carter hit a 3-pt field goal at the start of the second half to tie the game at 27-27. This was the last time Army would be even with the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh was led by strong inside play by Jason Mgebroff (14 pts) and great guard play by High Point transfer, Joe Knight, who led Lehigh with 20 points (including 4-5 from 3-point range) and 7 assists. Lehigh freshman Bryan White showed his athleticism off the bench, pitching in 10 points and 6 rebounds. Army never quit, narrowing the gap to 3 points with less than a minute, but Lehigh always seemed to have an answer.

Army was led by the brilliant play of Cory Sinning, who set a career high with 20 points and helped keep Army in the game with his tough, physical play. Matt Bell added 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Jarell Brown had his best game as a Cadet (career high 6 points).

On Sunday afternoon, Army posted another strong effort against the Leopards of Lafayette. The first half was a series of runs by each team. The Leopards blitzed Army at the start, putting up the first 9 points on three 3-point field goals (2 by Marcus Harley and the other by Pat Betley). Army roared back with the next 7 points on some buckets by Cory Sinning and Matt Bell. The teams then traded runs of 6 points each, with Colin Harris scoring all 6 Cadet points to make it 15-13, Lafayette. The Leopards then posted the next seven points, only to be answered by 8 straight from the Cadets to make it 22-21. A 3-point field goal by Lafayette's Paul Cummins led a 5-point Leopard run, with Cory Sinning ending the first half scoring with two free throws to make it 27-23.

Both teams shot extremely well in a high scoring second half. Grant Carter hit another 3-point field goal at the start, and the teams traded baskets to make it 32-30, Lafayette. The Leopards then started another run of 7 points, and continued to hold the Cadets at bay for most of the second half, leading 62-50 with about 7 minutes left. Grant Carter hit another 3-pointer to cut it to 9, and appeared to take a charge to presumably give the Cadets the ball back. However, the referee called a very questionable blocking foul on Carter, much to the dismay of the angry crowd and Army bench. This really hurt the Cadets, as Carter seemed to be warming up from the outside.

Still, Matt Bell and Cory Sinning almost willed a Cadet victory. They packed a powerful 1-2 punch, often scoring on difficult shots and drawing several Leopard fouls. However, Lafayette, behind the strong play of Sean Knitter, just seemed to have an answer every time the Cadets got close. Sean Knitter, who was the player of the game back when Army faced Lafayette in Easton, Pa, repeated that effort with a 21-point game in only 21 minutes.

Matt Bell brought Army to within two, 72-70 with one minute left, but Knitter then hit a turnaround fade away 10-ft jump shot with 35 seconds left to give the Leopards a 74-70 lead. After Army and Lafayette traded possessions, Matt Bell was fouled from behind the arc with 6 seconds left. He hit all 3 free throws, the last of which gave Bell 30 points for the game. Army then fouled Knitter with 5 seconds left, and Knitter calmly hit 2 more free throws. Army set up Colin Harris for a good look from 3-pt range at the buzzer, but the shot fell just short, and so did the Cadets, 76-73.

Matt Bell had his best overall game of the year, leading the team with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists while committing only 1 turnover. Cory Sinning also played his 2nd strong game in a row, equaling his career high set Friday night with his 2nd straight 20-point effort.

Bell and Sinning are giving Army their best 1-2 punch since the days of Chris Spatola and Charles Woodruff. Grant Carter is also providing strong, if streaky, outside shooting as a third option. Colin Harris is playing better, but the Cadets still lack a strong inside presence. They have 3 games left during league play, and will likely face the tough Crusaders of Holy Cross in the tournament. Hopefully, the continued improvement will be rewarded with a couple of wins down the stretch. The next game is on Saturday, Feb 19, as the Cadets host the tough Bucknell Bison.


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