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Men’s Basketball Notebook: Air Force nearly upsets a bubble team; Navy has a 2-0 week

Army and Navy are currently tied for first place in the Patriot League.

COLORADO STATE RAMS VS AIR FORCE FALCONS, NCAA MEN”u2019S BASKETBALL Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

It was a week full of bounce-back opportunities for the Service Academies.

How will Air Force respond to its worst Mountain West loss of the year? How will Army and Navy rebound off a wild rivalry game? All-in-all, the week was a victory. Many wins, close losses, and rides up the standings.

As always, these are three programs on the rise and they showed why that’s the truth again this past week.

Results

Tuesday:

Air Force 63, San Jose State 53

Wednesday:

Navy 81, Bucknell 63

Lehigh 84, Army 71

Friday:

Wyoming 63, Air Force 61

Saturday:

Army 60, Lafayette 56

Navy 47, American 45

Schedule

Tuesday:

Air Force vs Utah State – 9 p.m. (Mountain West Network)

Wednesday:

Army vs Loyola (MD) – 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Navy vs Lehigh – 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Saturday:

Holy Cross vs Army – 1 p.m. (ESPN+)

Navy vs Loyola (MD) – 5 p.m. (ESPN+)

New Mexico vs Air Force – 8 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Navy

The Midshipmen responded loudly after last week’s historic loss to Army with two big Patriot League victories.

On Wednesday, Navy would lead a pesky Bucknell Bison team by eight at the break but the second half was what really made a difference. The Midshipmen scored on their first eight possessions of the half and ten of the first 11 to take a 20-point advantage.

“Right from the opening tip we played well. After getting stung Saturday, this was the kind of test of who we are and what kind of team we have,” Navy head coach Ed DeChellis said postgame.

Navy would go on to shoot 59.4% in that second half, finishing the day with a 10-19 mark from three.

The Midshipmen would do it a completely different way on Saturday, beating American in a defensive matchup by a score of 47-45. That was the second time this season that Navy had won a game by scoring only 47 points.

“We defended pretty well, and we rebounded. We gave ourselves the chance to win,” DeChellis said.

Offensive rebounding was a big difference in the first half as the Midshipmen outrebounded the Eagles by a 9-2 mark. This led them into a ten-point lead at the half.

American kept slowly chipping into the lead, as the game went into a one-possession one in the final minute.

Patrick Dorsey sank some free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining though, and the Eagles couldn’t get off a good shot, giving Navy the win.

This week, the Midshipmen will play two teams who are bundled up in the race for first place with them, Lehigh and Loyola (MD).

The Midshipmen lost to Lehigh earlier this season, 69-61, as the matchup with the Greyhounds will be their first this season.

Air Force

After getting trounced by Colorado State last weekend, the Falcons responded with a 1-1 week and a near-upset of an NCAA Tournament bubble team.

On Tuesday, Air Force nearly led all game as they picked up Joe Scott’s 250th career win, 63-53 over San Jose State. The victory also happened to double the Falcons win total from a season ago, at ten.

It was the defense who made a difference as Lucas Moerman set a school-high for blocks in a game at six while the Falcons kept San Jose State quiet from behind the arch, holding them to 3-14 from three.

The Falcons would look to carry their momentum into Friday as they hosted bubble team, Wyoming. Jeff Linder’s Cowboys never held a lead of more than 11, as Air Force made it into a game late.

They rallied to a 9-2 run, capped by an AJ Walker three to tie it up with nine seconds remaining. Hunter Maldonado had different plans though, as he sunk a shot at the buzzer to give Wyoming the tough road win.

“I thought we sped him up so much, it could’ve gone either way,” Air Force head coach Joe Scott said postgame.

This week, Air Force will head to Logan to face a red-hot Utah State team and host New Mexico on Saturday. The Falcons beat Utah State to open Mountain West play, 47-45 in Colorado Springs. They will look to win their second straight against New Mexico.

Army

Army entered the week with not only the biggest comeback victory in Patriot League history but its longest win streak since 1999 at three games. It would end on Wednesday, but the Black Knights showed just how gritty they are on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Army had a difficult second half as they lost to Lehigh, 84-71. The Mountain Hawks outscored Army, 42-27 for the final 14 minutes of the game and had difficulties toughening out this rough Lehigh side.

“We were outcoached (and) we didn’t adjust to things quickly enough. We were out-toughed as they beat us to every loose ball. We had six or seven chances to take charge of the game and we didn’t, and that is on me. You have to take charges, win 50-50 balls, and make free throws to win conference road games,” Army head coach Jimmy Allen said postgame.

It would look like the same on Saturday, but the Black Knights grittiness showed up as they scored the final seven points to beat Lafayette by a score of 60-56. They held off multiple Leopard chances to tie the game up, as the Black Knights beat Fran O’Hanlon for possibly the last time ever.

“We talked a lot about the fact that it would take 40 minutes,” said Allen, “Everybody makes some adjustments, but it’s going to come down to guys winning one-on-one battles.”

This week, Army will rematch against Loyola (MD) and play its first battle against Holy Cross. The earlier matchup against Loyola was a 77-74 overtime victory at Christl Arena.

Army and Navy are currently tied for first place in the Patriot League.