Army hoops week in review

Well, it's happening again. The promise of a change in Army's Patriot League fortunes by getting off to a good non-conference start has at least, through the first three contests, been slapped in the face by reality. And that reality is that Army is headed for another death spiral in the league standings unless their offense can play a solid 40 minutes night after night.

Sunday's game against Lehigh could be the poster child for all that's been bad about Army basketball the last quarter century. After getting out to a 5-0 lead, the rest of the first half and most of the second were dominated by a team that had no clue on how to get the ball inside, instead settling for mindless passing around the perimeter and then shooting a low percentage or off balance shot resulting in an astounding amount of time between scores and letting Lehigh's transition offense and good looks at the basket pretty much seal the deal in the first half.

Watching the first half on Sunday with the Army offense unable to do anything, your mind's eye could wander. Sunday it was Zach Spiker, but it just as well could have been Jim Crews, Pat Harris, Tom Miller or Dino Gaudio pacing the sideline watching their team struggle to get a shot off before the shot clock expired. Army has always depended on a select few players to handle the scoring, and when those players shoot like they did on Sunday the Black Knight's have practically no shot at winning.

Defensively, Army played tough for most of Lehigh's possessions, but frequently gave up an easy bucket inside with the clock winding down. Lehigh's power players were able to create inside and score, something that has been and remains a problem for the Cadets.

There is some good news. Army went on the road to Holy Cross last Wednesday and emerged with a victory. The Cadets were able to overcome their usual stretch of offensive funk to start lighting it up in the second half, led by strong efforts by Julian Simmons and Josh Miller. This victory was a good sign, as this is the kind of game Army has lost through the years. When the Crusaders took a lead with 5 minutes to go in the game, Army did not fold and played stellar defense down the stretch. This despite being dominated inside by Andrew Keister, who had a monster performance shooting 7-8 with 18 rebounds, 6 off the offensive glass.

Still, looking forward it will become more and more important to get the ball inside. Army's offense of shooting around the perimeter has led to a frightening difference in points scored from the free throw line. Even in victory against Holy Cross, there was a 19-5 differential in points from the line. That's hard enough for a good shooting team to overcome, and very difficult for an inconsistent team like Army.

I've said that I will be thrilled to death to finish this season over .500 and break the quarter-century malaise. PL titles, NCAA, or even NIT berths would be gravy. It is still very realistic for Army to finish at a .500 level in league play, which would make that winning season a reality.

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