Preview: Army at Navy

(AP Photo/Chris Gardner)

On Saturday afternoon the Army Black Knights (12-6) travel to Annapolis to take on Navy (8-11) in a swing game for each team. Both enter the contest at (2-2) in Patriot League play.

When: Saturday January 23  @ Noon ( TV: CBS College Sports Network)

Where: Annapolis, Md. at Alumni Hall

On Saturday afternoon  the Army Black Knights (12-6) travel to Annapolis to take on Navy (8-11) in a swing game for each team. Both enter the contest at (2-2) in Patriot League play.  After an easy non conference schedule the Black Knights  started the Patriot season in disappointing fashion dropping two of its first three conference games. After a pitiful performance at home against Lehigh coach, Zach Spiker challenged the Black Knights and they responded with one of their best performances. Army hammered the rebuilding defending Patriot  League champions American University, 68-48.  It was only Army's second win over a rebuilding American University team in their last 20 meetings. Navy comes into the game off a disappointing loss to Holy Cross on the road. Navy was down only by three points with eight minutes to play but went ice cold from the field the rest of the way.

The Matchups:

   While Army has played at a faster temp than they did under Jim Crews this game is a contrast in styles. Navy plays a fast up-tempo run and gun. game. The Midshipmen average  70 points per game and they put up 5 more shots and average 4 free throws  per game more than  Army . Navy usually plays with undersized line up featuring 3 or 4 guards. Their leading scorer is senior Chris Harris who is the league's leading scorer at 20 points a game.  Sophomore guard Jordan Sugars, who plays small forward in Navy's offense, has done a terrific job replacing Kaleo Kina who graduated. Sugars averages 14.5 points per game and an impressive 8.2 rebounds. Navy holds a huge advantage in free throw shooting hitting on 72.5% of their attempts while Army hits on only 64% of its attempts. Navy has a big advantage at the stripe down the stretch with  Harris who is virtually automatic at the line (89.1 %)

 I expect Patriot League defending Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Nelson to draw Sugars. Marcus came off the bench for 16 minutes  after missing the previous two games. Hopefully he's back at 100% on Saturday. Army catches Navy at the right time with their 6-11 Center Mark Veazey still recovering from a sprained foot that has limited his minutes. Army's Chris Walker had his best game this year against American University after head coach Spiker spoke to him about staying out of foul trouble. Chris responded with only one personal foul in first half. He finished with a season high 14 points on  7 of 11 shooting.

Army's athletic defense should give Navy trouble on the perimeter. On offense Army needs to avoid sloppy turnovers and value the ball like they did against American when they had only 7 turnovers. Navy's style of play, allowing over 75 points per game, causes them to give up too many easy hoops and  should allow  Army to avoid the scoring droughts that have at times plagued the team at times in Patriot League play.  I see Army winning a close game.

Notes: Promising freshman guard Montez Blair who appeared in eleven games has left the Naval Academy.   

       The Army women's team (8-10, 2-2 Patriot League) play Navy (10-9, 2-2) at approximately 3 PM.

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