Jan. 21, 2007
WEST POINT, N.Y--Army senior guard Matt Bell scored 16 points, including 10 in the second half, to lead the Black Knights (13-7, 3-2 in the Patriot League) to a 53-50 victory over Navy (11-9, 1-4 in the Patriot League) in front of 3,904 fans at Christl Arena. Junior guard Greg Sprink led the Mids with 19 points, while freshman T.J. Topercer scored 11.
Navy shot just 29% (16-56) from the floor, including a miserable 7-31 (23%) in the second half. The Mids consistently got good looks at the basket, but couldn't knock them down.
"I thought we played very well today except we couldn't make shots," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "We took good shots and we had the right guys shooting, we just didn't knock them down."
"It was a typical Army-Navy game," said Army head coach Jim Crews. "Both teams played really well defensively and we were fortunate to win the game. I am really pleased for our older guys, because they have invested a lot into this program over the last four years and they are finally seeing the effort pay off in wins. I'm a firm believer that if you keep doing things the right way that eventually good things will happen."
Navy trailed by two points at the half (25-23), but quickly fell behind by as many as 10 points as the Black Knight started the second half on a 12-4 run. Bell scored eight of Army's 12 points during the six-minute span.
The Mids, however, refused to fold and battled back to take a one point lead with an 11-2 run of their own.
Freshman forward T.J. Topercer started the rally with a three-point field goal and then, after two free throws by Chris Harris, Adam Teague and Sprink hit back-to-back three-pointers with the latter giving Navy a 42-41 lead with 5:08 remaining in the contest.
"There was never any doubt in my mind that we could come back and we did," said Lange. "It's hard to come back like that when you shoot 22% in the second half, but we did."
After a Jarrell Brown lay-up gave Army the lead back, Sprink answered with an old-fashioned three-point play scoring in the paint off a beautiful assist from Kaleo Kina and was fouled by Corban Bates. Sprink's free throw gave Navy a 43-41 lead with 5:08 remaining.
The Mids forced a miss on Army's next possession, but Bates, who killed Navy last year with a combined 31 points and 22 rebounds in the two games, took advantage of a missed block out and scored on the put-back and was fouled by Kina. Bates' free throw gave Army the lead for good at 44-43.
On Army's next possession Bates grabbed another offensive rebound and then hit a long three-point field goal from the left corner to give the Black Knights a four point advantage at 47-43 with 4:09 left in the contest.
The Midshipmen would cut Army's advantage to two points on three different occasions but could never tie or take the lead again.
Sprink hit two free throws with 3:57 left to make the score 47-45, Trey Stanton hit two free throws with 1:43 left that sliced Army's lead to 49-47 and a Sprink three-pointer with six seconds left cut the Army lead to two at 52-50. Sprink's three-pointer was Navy's only field goal in the final 5:02 of the contest.
After a Navy timeout, the Mids fouled Bell with 4.5 seconds left. Bell, an 86% free throw shooter, missed the first and made the second to give Army a three point lead.
The Mids got the ball to Sprink, who dribbled the length of the court and got a great look at a three-point field goal that would have tied a game but the 25-foot shot rimmed out.
"It felt good when it left my hand, I thought it was going in," said Sprink.
This is the fourth-straight year that Army has won the first of two games the teams play each year with Navy coming back to win the N-Star game in each of the previous three years.
"We are a much better team now than we have been the previous three years," said Army's Bell. "I think we have a legitimate shot this year of going down to their place and beating them."