|Boxscore | StatSheet.com|
Army’s defensive plan was simple: stop Greg Sprink at all costs. Whenever Navy’s best player touched the ball, he was met with a double-team. Navy probably would have done a lot better if they employed a similar strategy with Jarell Brown. Brown, Army’s only real scoring threat, scored 35 points, including the game-winning basket, to lead Army to a 69-67 win over the Mids at Alumni Hall. The loss dropped Navy to 2-3 in the Patriot League and kept them from pulling within a game of conference leader Lafayette, who lost to Lehigh on Saturday night. The Leopards are now tied with Bucknell for the top spot in the league.
Army started the game with an 11-0 run as Navy came out and looked lost. Once the Mids settled down, though, they started to play some good basketball. If there is anything positive to take from this game, it’s that other players stepped up when Army went after Sprink. In the first half, Adam Teague’s 3-pointers and steals helped the Mids to dig out of their early deficit and actually take a lead into the half. In the second half, Mark Veazey came out on fire, scoring points underneath the basket, blocking shots, and making some tough rebounds. Chris Harris added 20 points and 5 assists, although he was only 5-18 from the field. And despite Army’s efforts, Sprink actually had a decent game statistically, scoring 20 himself while pulling down 6 rebounds. While Army’s defense couldn’t stop Greg Sprink from scoring, they did force him into 7 turnovers. Greg tried to fight through double-teams to force fouls and get to the free throw line, but too often he came in out of control and gave up the ball. Army’s defense, though, wasn’t the cause of his biggest gaffe of the night. Sprink took a pass after a steal at half-court and missed what appeared to be some kind of hot-dogging, rim-rocking, wide-open dunk attempt. Navy actually got the offensive rebound, but the Black Knights got a steal and wound up with a 3-point play on the other end. The resulting 5-point swing may have been the difference in the game.
I can sympathize with Greg Sprink. I can imagine what he was thinking. This was Navy’s biggest rival in an important Patriot League game, but you’d never have known that by listening to the crowd– especially the Brigade. They were dead. But if Greg could pull off that dunk, maybe he could have shot some excitement into the Mids. Maybe he could have brought the crowd into the game. And a play like that can be demoralizing for the other team; maybe it would have broken Army’s back. At the very least, maybe whipping the crowd into a frenzy would have forced Jim Crews to call a timeout or something. Unfortunately, none of those “maybes” were more important than the actual 2 points.
Even with that 5-point swing, it was still a tie game inside of a minute to play. Army had the ball, and everyone in the building– well, those who were paying attention to the game, anyway– knew who was going to get the ball. Why, then, did Billy Lange put Greg Sprink, with his four fouls, on Jarell Brown? Greg couldn’t contest Brown’s shot because if he fouled out, Navy would be without their best player in a potential game-winning or tying situation. And as Brown drove down the right side, nobody slid off of their man to help out. Brown’s game-winning shot was a way-too-easy layup.
Navy has had significant second-half leads in each of its three Patriot League losses. With Billy Lange’s 3-point-happy offense, Navy can race out ahead of anyone. Unfortunately, it also means that anyone can come back to beat Navy as soon as the shots stop falling. Playing up-tempo and shooting 3s might not be the best way to handle situations where you want to limit the other team’s posessions. I’m on board with the basics of Lange’s offense. I wasn’t at the beginning of the year, but Chris Harris has stepped up as a scoring threat to take pressure off of Greg Sprink. Now Lange has to draw something up to help his team hold on to the leads they build.
|K. Kina (G)||22||1||0-6||0||1-2||50||0-4||0||1||1||2||1||0||0||6||4|
|C. Harris (G)||40||20||5-18||27.8||5-6||83.3||5-14||35.7||2||2||4||5||2||0||2||1|
|G. Sprink (G)||38||20||6-18||33.3||6-7||85.7||2-8||25||2||4||6||3||2||0||7||4|
|R. Garcia (G)||25||3||1-3||33.3||0-0||0||1-2||50||0||6||6||0||0||0||2||1|
|M. Veazey (C)||21||9||4-7||57.1||1-3||33.3||0-0||0||4||3||7||2||0||3||1||2|