Against American, Army for the most part played the kind of smart basketball you would expect of a team dominated by firsties. The biggest reason for success was their ability to pound the ball inside and create high percentage scoring opportunities. Chris Walker had his best offensive showing since his plebe year, shooting 7-11 from the field. For once, the backcourt players were able to get him the ball low enough in the paint to enable him to pull off some pretty moves around the basket. He was also able to avoid the silly fouls that have plagued most of his tenure at West Point, which kept him on the court and into the flow.
And that wasn't all. The team shot a sparkling 54% from the floor and 50% from behind the arc. The play of the guards was under control. They didn't pass the ball mindlessly until the shot clock ran down. Things were smooth and methodical, as the Cadets only turned it over 7 times compared to American's 19.
Defensively, Army had a great first half as American insisted on taking 3-point shots. They only scored one 2pt. basket in the half. It never ceases to amaze me how when teams start off badly from 3 pt., they insist on keeping up a constant stream of bricks instead of changing their plan. In the second half, American was 11-13 shooting 2 pointers and limited their 3pt. shots to only 5. Had they started the game that way, the final result may have been very different.
You left that game thinking that if Army could play smart basketball like that against Navy, things would look good indeed.
But Saturday was a new day, and it doesn't get much worse. After getting off to a 6-0 start, the Black Knights rapidly fell back to their reach for the Maalox ways. (BTW, the next time Army gets off to a good start in a game, immediately head for the parking lot. Army got off to a 5-0 start on Lehigh, and then wasted no time getting blown out).
And Army couldn't have asked for a better situation. Navy's two biggest scorers were riding the pine in foul trouble. The defense was able to clamp down on the Mids, forcing Navy to throw up ill-advised shots from all over the place. Navy actually went over 8 minutes in the first half without a field goal. The game should have been a laugher. But he who laughs last.....
Not surprisingly, Navy came out strong in the second half, but after 3 consecutive baskets from behind the arc, Army had a 15-point lead, and it looked as if order had been restored. But then came basketball as ugly as Army has ever played. As the Chris Harris Show was beginning to unfold, Army took on the look of a mugging victim looking around for a cop. To say that the Cadets struggle offensively when teams make a run on them is as big an understatement as it gets. Possession after possession resulted in no points, Navy kept turning the screws and Army completed a performance that would make the Washington Generals proud. All the good things from the American game were not there. The big men were never given the ball low enough in the paint. Turnovers piled up, and nobody seemed willing to try and put the team on their back.
A couple points. First, Zach Spiker will hopefully learn from the experience on Saturday. I thought he displayed the same dazed look as his team as Rome burned in the second half. It seemed a timeout was in order several times during the game, yet Spiker seemed content to wait for media timeouts.
Also, it is now becoming evident that this team's Jekyll-Hyde performances will likely not come to an end. Twenty point wins are as likely to happen on a given night as twenty point losses. The team just does not have the ability to handle and shoot the ball well enough to yield consistent results.
My goal for this team is to finish over .500. It will happen with three more wins.
Army hoops week in review
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