Army tops American, 60-55

Christl Arena is no longer proving to be a safe haven for visiting Patriot League competition. With good support from the crowd, Army remains undefeated at home in the Patriot League with a tough, hard-fought 60-55 victory over the American Eagles. Outstanding free throw shooting down the stretch (14 of 16) enabled the Black Knights to hang on against a valiant American squad.

Both teams started out rather slowly on offense in the first half. While American's leading scorer, Andre Ingram, was held in check, Jersey City native Derrick Mason continually hurt the Black Knights with his penetration and shooting. Army could never get it going offensively in the first half, shooting about 25 percent from the field. The only apparent threat was again Jarell Brown, who led the team with 8 points in the first half. But, solid defense and decent rebounding kept Army in the game, and although Mason hit Travis Lay for an easy lay up at the end of the first half, the Black Knights only trailed 23-17 at halftime.

There was a lot of hot shooting by the local youth league team that played at halftime, and the kids' hot shooting seemed to rub off on the Cadets. Army reeled off a 9-1 spurt to overtake the Eagles by 2 very early in the second half. While the Eagles continually challenged, Army never lost the lead again. Jarell Brown really started showing off some of his impressive offensive skills during this stretch, hitting from both outside the arc as well as making some nice moves to create his own shot. At the same time, a lot of credit has to go to Army big men Chris Walker and Doug Williams, who held the two American centers to only 1 point for the whole game. In addition, in spite of a decided height advantage down low, Army only lost the battle of the boards 35-32 for the night, and their boxing out caused foul trouble for American.

American was not going to go away easily. A nice run by the Eagles brought them back to within 1, 42-41 with about 4 minutes left. At this point, Marcus Nelson showed off some of his incredible athletic talent. The freshman followed up a Matt Bell miss from the corner with a thundering dunk off the offensive rebound. This gave Army a 44-41 lead. Another nice tip in on an offensive rebound by Jarell Brown continued the hot streak, and Army never trailed again.

At this point, the clock became the enemy of the Eagles. As such, they liberally fouled the Black Knights in a vain effort to overtake Army. However, extremely clutch free throw shooting, particularly from captain Matt Bell (11 of 12 for the game) and Cory Sinning (another double digit effort with 10) helped seal the victory. In the middle of American's run, American sharpshooter Arvydas Eitutavicius attempted what looked to be a wide-open three pointer to tie the Black Knights. However, before anyone could really tell where it came from, Marcus Nelson once again showed he excels on both ends of the floor with a crowd-rousing rejection of a key American possession.

Jarell Brown led Army with 19 points, followed by veterans Bell and Sinning with 17 and 10 points, respectively. American's leading scorer was Eitutavicius with 17 himself (again, most from the charity stripe). In addition to fantastic effort from the aforementioned Walker-Williams combo, Corban Bates fell under the radar, but also contributed nicely with 5 boards.

The 2006-2007 edition of the Black Knights is definitely different from most recent past years. Brown is proving to be a legitimate offensive threat from anywhere on the floor and Matt Bell's superb leadership helped to bring back Army to 500. Army will need to continue its improvement as arch-rival Navy invades Christl Arena this coming weekend. The place should be filled to capacity as the Middies come to town. While Navy is only 1-3 in the Patriot League, they came to Christl Arena last year and won in a very hostile environment, so the Black Knights will have to be on their game to avenge the loss from last year. Southpaw Greg Sprink leads Navy's scoring, and continued great defense will be needed to lift the Cadets to victory. Game time is at 12 noon on Sunday.

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