The Navy basketball team will look at its opponent on Saturday and say, "We know how you feel." Two…
Second Basketball Scouting Report: American
Playing a credentialed opponent should always be a fun experience, especially if it's at home. Navy begins its final homestand before the Patriot League Tournament with a chance to make mischief… and more importantly, build momentum heading into next week. The bench can probably use a workout (and overtaxed starters some needed rest) on Saturday against Loyola (Maryland). In this game against American, though, Navy needs to see what its best players can do.
The Eagles thought they had rediscovered the smothering defense that catapulted them to the Patriot League lead in early February. American held Army to only 16 points in the first half of this past Saturday's game against the Black Knights. However, the Eagles then conceded 38 points in the second half and nearly blew a huge lead. The Eagles should be happy with the win, but they can't be pleased with their inability to lock down opponents for the full 40 minutes. This will undeniably become a central part of the drama that will unfold tonight in Annapolis. Patriot League watchers are wondering if American can once again become an imposing defensive force.
Center – Tony Wroblicky – Senior, 6-10, 230; 2013-14: 12.4 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, 2.7 assists per game, 2 blocked shots per game
Wroblicky's best and most admirable trait is that his rebounding numbers have slowly but steadily improved over the course of the season. As the mileage accumulates and the games get more important, Wroblicky plays harder, not softer. That has to thrill his teammates and coaches.
Forward – Kyle Kager – Junior, 6-8, 195; 2013-14: 6.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Kager doesn't figure prominently in American's plans or scheme, but the Eagles aren't a deep team, so Kager is asked to play a fair share of minutes (19.6 per game). Navy needs to take advantage of his lack of skill on offense while not getting beaten by him on the glass.
Guard – Darius Gardner – Junior, 5-9, 165; 2013-14: 11.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.1 steals per game
Gardner's overall shooting percentages – from three-point range and two-point range – are slowly but genuinely decreasing. Unlike teammate Jesse Reed (see below), Gardner appears to be losing steam. This should affect how Navy puts together its defensive game plan.
Guard – Jesse Reed – Sophomore, 6-5, 185; 2013-14: 14.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.1 steal per game
Reed hits exactly 50 percent of his three-point shots. He's precisely the kind of player that an opposing defense must crowd – early, often and always. Running Reed off the three-point line is and must remain a priority for Navy's defense. This will help American space the floor, but Navy has to concede as much and trust its other four defenders to hold up under pressure.
Guard – John Schoof – Junior, 6-5, 205; 2013-14: 12 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.1 apg
Schoof needs to be able to play off Reed more effectively; if he doesn't, American probably won't be able to score to the extent it needs to.
Keys to the Game
1) Take away Reed. Three-point shooters can often tire as a season continues, losing spring on their legs and thereby leaving shots short. Reed is only improving as a three-point shooter, so Navy has to essentially tell him, "No, you're not getting a free shooting hand in this game."
2) Don't settle for the contested or long jumper early in the shot clock – take early shots only if they're wide open or the product of catches (not dribbles). American still can't play strong defense for a full 40 minutes. Making the extra pass will be important for Navy tonight.
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