Army, Navy and Air Force were all losers last night. For Navy, the defeat had significant postseason ramifications. Army’s loss was meaningless as far the postseason goes, but it does dim their hopes of finally finishing with a winning record. And for Air Force, it was another loss in year that probably can’t end soon enough.
Mids on a skid
Probably no loss was more painful than Navy’s double overtime thriller against American. Navy’s 80-77 defeat is their second in a row, and it appears to have come in a most painful — and controversial — manner. More importanly, the Mids blew a chance to wrap up a home quarterfinal game in the Patriot League tournament.
Amercian sent the game into double overtime thanks to a wild sequence of events in the final seconds of the first OT. Navy’s Jordan Sugars hit a “near miraculous” shot to put Navy ahead by two points with 1.5 seconds left. American then heaved the ball downcourt on the inbounds, where it was knocked away from the Eagle who caught it, according to the Washington Post account of the game. From there it bounced to American’s Joe Hill, who somehow managed to sink a shot before the buzzer.
Navy coach Billy Lange told reporters after the game that he had a hard to believing that so much could happen in so little time.
“I am curious to how a ball can get tipped twice, bounce on the floor, picked up and shot in 1.5 seconds,” Lange told the Post.
In the second OT, Navy played without leading scorer Chris Harris and starting point guard O.J. Ovworo because each had fouled out. The Mids hung tough, but could only muster five points with so many key parts missing.
Navy (13-15, 7-6) could still finish in the top four in the Patriot (and thus earn a home quarterfinal game) if they win at Colgate on Saturday. But if they lose, the Mids will need an American loss to Lafayette to stay in the top four. Navy could finish as high as third place if they win and Bucknell loses to … wait for it … Army.
Army continues to tumble
The chance to wrap up a winning season at West Point is slowly sliding away. Last night Lafayette came to town and destroyed the Black Knights, 80-54. It was the most points Army has allowed all season. The lopsided loss is somewhat shocking considering the Black Knights had scored an emotional win over Navy last Saturday, and were playing at Christl Arena, where they had only lost once previously this season.
Despite the late-season swoon, Army (14-13, 4-9) can still clinch its first winning season in 25 years by beating Bucknell on Saturday at West Point. Army lost to Bucknell (13-16, 8-5) in the teams’ first meeting in January.
Despite the early success for Army, their spotty performance in Patriot League play means they can finish no higher than seventh place in the regular season, and will thus play their first Patriot League tournament game on the road.
On the positive, and slightly strange side, Army senior forward Cleveland Richard became the program’s all-time steals leader last night, passing teammate Josh Miller. Richard has been Army’s most steady player this year, leading the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game.
So much for momentum
Air Force may have played its best game of the season last Saturday in a 59-56 loss at No. 12 New Mexico. But the Falcons were unable to follow up that strong showing last night at home against Utah, who held Air Force to their lowest point total of the season in a 54-43 victory.
“We definitely didn’t take a step forward tonight,” Air Force senior Grant Parker told the (Colorado Springs Gazette) after the game. “And I don’t know exactly why we didn’t come out and play better.”
Air Force has three regular season games remaining before the Mountain West Conference tournament. The Falcons have now lost 27 of their last 28 regular season games in the MWC. Their only win in conference this season came at home against Wyoming. Air Force will play the Cowboys again next Tuesday on the road.