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Navy's Comeback Falls Short Against Army

By any measure, the Sunday’s basketball game between Army and Navy shouldn’t have been close. Navy shot 32% from the floor and was 4 of 22 from three-point range, while Army sank 52% of their field goals.

Navy (12-7, 3-3 Patriot League) made more of a game of it than they probably should have, but it wasn’t enough as Army prevailed, 64-62, before a sellout crowd of 5,710 in Alumni Hall. Shawn Anderson led all players with 24 points, while Army’s star freshman Alex King had 17 to lead the Black Knights (11-6, 4-2).

“Offensively, we didn’t play well,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. “Defensively, we weren’t horrible. You hold them to 62 points, you think you have a chance to win. They shot a high percentage, though.”

“I was really pleased with our performance overall,” said Army head coach Jimmy Allen. “I thought we did a lot of really good things.

“Especially in the first half, I thought that was a pretty solid effort by our guys executing what we want to do offensively, getting good shots, knocking them down, and just staying composed.”

Army led by ten with 36 seconds remaining, but Navy mounted a furious comeback attempt. Anderson hit a jump shot with 29 seconds remaining to cut the lead to eight. The Mids quickly fouled Army’s Jordan Fox, but the junior guard missed both of his foul shots. Anderson then made a three-pointer to pull Navy within five with 19 seconds left, and again Navy committed a foul to stop the clock. After Army’s Tucker Blackwell converted his free throws to push the lead back to seven, George Kiernan was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound. He sank his free throws, and Navy quickly committed another foul with seven seconds left. After King missed both free throws, Cam Davis hit a three-pointer to make it a two-point game with two seconds left. Navy appeared to foul Army again on the ensuing inbounds pass with less than a second remaining, but the officials ruled that time had run out, and the game ended.

Navy trailed by as many as 14 in the second half, but slowly crawled back into the game by converting 16 of their last 17 free throw attempts. DeChellis made a point to get to the free throw line after it became apparent that Navy was having a bad afternoon shooting the ball.

“We tried to get him [Anderson] to the line and have him drive the ball a little more,” he said. “I thought George [Kiernan] just rebounded the darn ball hard and got fouled. That was important. That’s kind of who we are. We’re a rhythm three-point shooting team. When we drive and pitch we can step in and shoot, but we’re not a knock-down, just run-sets-and shoot-threes team.”

Navy scored the first six points of the second half, capped by a pick-and-roll from Dulin to Lacey with 18:45 remaining that cut the Army lead to six at 35-29. Jordan Fox ended Navy’s run with his third three-pointer of the game, the first of eight straight points for Army that opened their lead back to 14.

“They really got after us,” said Allen. “We knew that coming in. Coming out of the half, they’re very aggressive. We were able to knock down some shots to stay in the lead.”

Army had gone into halftime with a 35-23 lead. King scored seven of Army’s first nine points to help the Black Knights open a 12-4 advantage in the game’s opening minutes. A 7-0 run by the Midshipmen pulled them within three with 5:37 remaining, but Army answered with a 10-0 run of their own to push their lead to 15. A pair of Hasan Abdullah free throws cut Army’s lead to 12 before the teams headed to the locker room.

King scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, including three three-pointers. Allen praised the freshman’s performance.

“Alex is a very talented basketball player; he’s got a really high basketball IQ,” he said. “He picks stuff up quickly. That’s why he’s been able to progress over the course of the year.”

“He was on the scouting report, trust me,” said DeChellis. “He led them in scoring. We talked about him for a day and a half, that he was a very good player that can shoot the ball.”

The Black Knights’ effectiveness from beyond the arc made it difficult for DeChellis to break Army’s rhythm by switching from man-to-man to a zone defense.

“We wanted to mix defenses, but we got down,” he said. “I didn’t want to give them open threes.”

It was Army’s defense that set the tone early on, forcing five turnovers in the first 4:25 of the game. Navy made matters worse by missing five layups over the same span.

“We let them get their confidence going in the first half,” said DeChellis. “We had a chance to make some easy shots, and we didn’t.”

“They do a great job of feeding their post guys,” said Allen. “They do a great job of driving the ball into the paint. That was a big concern of ours, and a big emphasis going into the game. We’ve got to be able to keep these guys in front of us. We’ve got to keep these guys out of the paint.”

DeChellis praised the effort of Anderson, who had received nine stitches in his nose after accidentally butting heads with an Army player. Anderson, though, felt that it was his responsibility as a senior to push the team to perform better.

“You’re going to have nights where you don’t shoot it well. But as a team, from me to the last guy on the bench, we just have to play harder. We have to increase our intensity.

“We have a really high ceiling, but we’re not playing to our potential.”