clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Men’s Basketball Notebook: Service Academies aim to build off strong league starts

Air Force visits No.20 Colorado State tonight.

Syndication: The Coloradoan Bethany Baker / Staff Photographer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

THEY’RE BACKKKKKKKK!

After a couple of rough basketball weeks for the Service Academies, all three started out the conference season with a big win.

On Saturday, Navy took care of business, as Army held on in overtime to get a nice win against Loyola (MD). Out west, Air Force had its game against Fresno State postponed because of Coronavirus protocols but beat Utah State earlier in the week to diminish the Aggies’ NCAA Tournament at-large bid hopes.

On Tuesday, all three teams will love to move to 2-0. Over the weekend, they’ll look to add on with a few more wins.

Momentum and health will be huge again this season, and all three have that now.

Results

Wednesday

· Air Force 49, Utah State 47

Saturday

· Army 77, Loyola (MD) 74 (OT)

· Navy 70, Holy Cross 56

· Air Force, Fresno State PPD

This Week

Tuesday

· Boston University vs Navy - 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

· Army vs Bucknell - 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

· Air Force vs Colorado State - 10 p.m. (STADIUM)

Friday

· Lehigh vs Army - 5 p.m. (ESPN+)

· Bucknell vs Navy - 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Saturday

· UNLV vs Air Force - 10 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Air Force

Clune Arena has turned into a place of nightmares for opponents, and it was so for the Utah State Aggies on Wednesday afternoon.

The Falcons moved to 5-0 at home as they held the 19th best shooting team in the country to only 32.7% from the field in a 49-47 victory.

“What you find is when you compete for forty minutes when you execute the game plan, and you don’t let them score the way they are used to scoring. That’s when you find out of the course of forty minutes that the grind starts to affect them,” head coach Joe Scott said.

Nothing could fall for the Aggies. They finished the afternoon 1-19 from three, 12-18 from the charity stripe, and went on multiple long scoring droughts. Ask Nikc Jackson about it. At the 2:24 mark, he denied Aggie big man Brandon Horvath an easy layup, giving the Falcons all the momentum for the remainder of the game.

“We know games are only getting harder. You might be dead tired. You gotta make the play,” said Jackson. “I know any other guy on the team would’ve as well.”

Air Force did this without two starters in Joe Octave and Lucas Moerman, but everyone else stepped-up big time. Cameron Vander Zwaag played all 40 minutes. AJ Walker scored 12 points in the second half, accounting for 44.4% of the Falcons’ points. Nikc Jackson had a career-high 12 rebounds.

But once again it was a freshman that stole the spotlight for Air Force.

On Monday, Jake Heidbreder was named the Mountain West Freshman of the Week as he scored 14 points and played 40 minutes in the victory.

The win was the highest-ranked victory for the Falcons since its 2020 victory against also, Utah State,

Air Force would look to get back into action on Saturday, but the game against Fresno State was postponed due to Coronavirus protocols.

They’ll get back into action tonight, facing off against the No.20 ranked team in the country Colorado State. The Rams are one of three unbeaten teams left in college basketball and are led by one of the best players in all the land, David Roddy. He picked up 41 points and 20 rebounds in their two trouncing wins against the Falcons last season. Along with that he currently ranks in the Top 100 of six KenPom categories while averaging 20.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Roddy isn’t the only offensive problem the Falcons have to deal with though, as they rank first in the country in both effective field goal percentage and three-point shooting.

After three days off, Air Force will return home to host UNLV. New Rebel head coach Kevin Kruger had his men play close with San Diego State on Saturday but couldn’t pull out the victory in a nationally televised game on CBS.

The Rebels run a large portion of their offense through Bryce Hamilton and Donovan Williams, as Royce Hamm is one of the best rebounding big men in the country.

Navy

The Midshipmen took care of business and dominated Holy Cross on Saturday, 70-56. This was their fifth straight win in a Patriot League opener, the longest streak in the league.

In the first half, Navy went on three big runs of 9-0, 10-2, and 13-1 to take a 42-20 lead at halftime. They did not look back from there.

“This team was really focused from the opening tip,” head coach Ed DeChellis said.

Greg Summers took charge scoring 12 second-half points, finishing the afternoon with 20. It was his first 20-point game of the 21-22 season.

“Greg was very aggressive with taking the ball to the basket,” said DeChellis.

Following him, Jaylen Walker had a career game with 13 points and a career-high nine rebounds. The Sophomore forced some timely turnovers, following them up with baskets.

The Navy win has kept Holy Cross winless against division one opponents this season.

This week, Navy will host two Patriot League games starting with a big one against Boston University on Tuesday. The two are now favorites in the league after strong non-conference slates.

BU made its ACC statement as they lost by only one, forcing overtime against Florida State on November 24th. Since then, they’ve won six of seven with its only loss being an overtime defeat against Marist.

The Terriers are a senior-led team as guard Javonte McCoy and big man Sukhmail Mathon are two of the best players in the league.

In the Terriers conference-opening win against Bucknell, Mathon picked up his sixth double-double of the season with a career-high in points (21) and rebounds (18). Javonte McCoy followed that with 17 points.

On Friday, Navy will host the 3-10 Bucknell Bison, but don’t let that record fool you. BU has beaten La Salle and Siena, taking Illinois State to overtime. They might not be one of the best teams in the league, but they can sneak up on you.

Andrew Funk is still the star there as he averages 17.8 points per game. Last time out, he scored 25. Against Illinois State in November, he scored 38.

Army

Saturday was a true litmus test for the Black Knights and they just barely passed it. After leading by as much as 18, Loyola (MD) came back to force overtime but lose by a score of 77-74.

“I’m as proud of our guys as I have ever been. Our quote going into the game ‘no battle plan survives contact with the enemy’ and we talked about what happens in that situation. We put in a ton of preparation. We had a couple of games that we didn’t play great before the break. I thought our team continued to get better during that time and I thought they came back with a great attitude. We’re down to two starters (during the game) and I thought some other guys stepped up and we had a high level of resilience.”

The first 20 minutes could’ve been a shooting clinic. Both teams shot over 55%, but the ultimate difference was the number of turnovers Army forced. Loyola had 13, resulting in 20 Black Knights points. This allowed Army to lead at the break 46-33.

Army would score the first five points out of halftime but Loyola just chipped from there. The Black Knights would turn the ball over on an inbound with two seconds remaining, giving the Greyhounds one last chance. Cam Spencer answered.

Luckily from there, Loyola would never be close again, as Army led throughout the overtime.

The win was the Black Knights first Patriot League opening win since the 2015-16 season.

Army will hit the road to face Bucknell on Tuesday night (previewed above) before hosting Lehigh on Friday at five o’clock.

The Mountain Hawks have had a brutal start to the season, but caught a break on Saturday as they beat a depleted American team, 63-61 for only its second division one win this season.

Junior Evan Taylor has had a strong season and that was shown as he scored a career-high 25 points in the league opener.