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Men’s Basketball Notebook: Service Academies look to build off strong starts after finals week

Army carried the academies this past week with its 2-0 record.

NCAA Basketball: Army at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Through six weeks of basketball, many would say that 3-2 is a good week. That was the record for the academies last week. It was also their worst one this season.

Both Air Force (7) and Navy’s (5) long win streaks were snapped on the road, losing to Montana and George Mason respectively. Navy responded with a win at Marist, as Air Force began its 11-day break for exams.

Army carried the academies this week otherwise, going 2-0 and blowing out a very good NJIT team in Newark.

It’s finals week, so the schedule is light. Navy doesn’t play, and Air Force and Army play road games on Sunday. It’ll be tough to continue the winning weeks because of that, but they have it in them.

Results

Tuesday

  • Army 97, SUNY Purchase 40
  • George Mason 71, Navy 65

Wednesday

  • Montana 66, Air Force 48

Friday

  • Army 66, NJIT 49

Sunday

  • Navy 67, Marist 61

This Week

Sunday

  • Air Force vs Arkansas State - 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
  • Army vs LIU - 2 p.m. (NEC Front Row)

Army

Lookie here! The Black Knights are this weeks’ Academy basketball report darling. That caps three straight weeks of a different header!

Coming off two thrashing losses against Siena and Air Force, Army picked up two big wins this past week against SUNY Purchase and NJIT.

Tuesday was an all-around amazing evening for the Black Knights. In a game that was never close, 10 different Cadets scored in the first half. They would win that half by a score of 42-24, taking a lead of as much as 21.

To begin the second half, Army went on a strong 22-7 run followed by a 17-0 run to lead them to a 97-40 victory. The Black Knights would go on to tie a program record of threes at 16, as 18 of the 20 who played scored points.

“A game like tonight certainly helps that build confidence with your guys,” Army head coach Jimmy Allen said postgame, “I think the biggest thing was just how we worked to get some of those shots was very satisfying.”

They would follow that up with a dominant win in Newark over a good NJIT team, 66-49. Army kept the Highlanders to season lows in both points and field goal percentage, while holding the lead for 38 minutes.

Jalen Rucker scored double digits for the sixth straight game, leading Army on a winning streak heading into finals week.

“I thought we put together 40 minutes tonight of consistent effort on both ends of the floor,” Allen said. “I was really proud of our guys today and I thought they were locked in, and they competed in every second.”

Army will play its only game of the week on Sunday, as they visit LIU. The Sharks are 1-7 against division one opponents, dropping all but one by more than two possessions.

Navy

Riding high off a five-game winning streak, the Midshipmen had its toughest test since before Thanksgiving in George Mason.

Navy came out of the gates firing early, taking a 12-11 lead. They would then go on a five-minute scoreless drought, falling by two possessions and trailing by a score of 32-26 at the break.

Some sloppy basketball allowed this to happen, as the Midshipmen turned the ball over seven times compared to the Patriots four. George Mason capitalized off that, scoring 12 points off turnovers in the first half. They would win the turnover advantage by a score of 22-11.

“We turned the ball over at really critical times,” Navy head coach Ed DeChellis said. “Some of them were unforced.”

The Patriots would lead for the remainder of the game, but Navy cut it to one possession with 16.1 remaining but would fall short snapping their winning streak after a 71-65 loss.

”But if you had told me we would hold them to 71 points, I would think we would have a chance and we did. Our kids fought in the last four or five minutes and thought we could get the win” said DeChellis. “Overall, we did some good things and can learn from this.”

Navy showed that they learned from this as they dominated Marist in the first half on Sunday, leading 41-22 at the break. They ended the first half on a 16-2 run.

“I thought defensively we were really good, it fueled our offense,” DeChellis said.

The Midshipmen would stretch its lead out to as much as 22 to begin the second half, but the Red Foxes would not go away. Marist responded to that early lead by the Midshipmen with a 14-0 run, cutting the Navy lead down to single digits with 13:20 remaining. It would stay close for the remainder of the game, but Navy was able to squeeze out a 67-61 victory. They kept yet another team to under 40% shooting while dominating the rebounding advantage by a 41-32 tilt.

Navy will head into finals week with a 7-3 record.

“I think we did a good job of weathering the storm (tonight),” said DeChellis. “I’m proud of our guys.”

Navy does not play until next Wednesday against Towson.

Air Force

Luckily, the worst week for the Falcons this season only resulted in one loss. Their seven-game winning streak was snapped against Montana, but they’ll look to get it back rolling coming off finals week.

On Wednesday in Missoula, the Falcons got dominated in the paint, resulting in them playing from behind throughout. The Grizzlies won the rebounding advantage by a score of 41-20 and the points-in-the-paint advantage by a score of 36-18.

By halftime, it was 35-24 Montana. They would come out of the break with an 8-0 run, and that was all she wrote as the Falcons couldn’t cut it to under eight for the remainder of the game.

AJ Walker had yet another great game for the Falcons, scoring 18 points. Freshman center Lucas Moerman had a career-high four blocks.

They will head into finals week with a 7-2 record and will have one of its toughest, if not its toughest battle yet against the Arkansas State Red Wolves in Jonesboro.

Red Wolves head coach Mike Balado has completely turned around his program, led by an amazing backcourt of Arkansas transfer Desi Sills, Caleb Fields, and Marquis Eaton, along with Nicaraguan double-double machine, Norchad Omier.