Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is an RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC Conferences. He took in the Army-Navy game at West Point yesterday.
WEST POINT, NY – Everyone is familiar with the tradition, pageantry and intensity of Army-Navy. When these two distinguished service academies get together, even if its backgammon, it’s something special. On Sunday the two met for the 109th time. Navy entered Christl Arena 14-5 (3-1 Patriot League) while Army was 4-13 (0-3). It is a cliché but when these two meet you can throw out the records.
On Sunday you could have assumed both clubs entered 0-0. Army established an early seven point lead on a pair of Julian Simmons three pointers. The remainder of the first half the Cadets kept the lead around double digits thanks to some good old fashioned Army defense. The Midshipmen shot 26% the first half and had only seven field goals as they trailed 33-26 at intermission. Shades of Bobby Knight. And why not as Army coach Jim Crews played for the ‘General’ at Indiana.
The second half saw Army expand the lead to seventeen points. Offensively the Cadets were in a good groove on both ends. The offense ran well and defense shut down Navy. Until late. Down the stretch the Midshipman found the range from three and made a run. They got it down to a two possession game with under a minute left. Those final seconds saw Army get enough stops and hit enough free throws to seal the 76-71 victory.
Cleveland Richard of Army led all scorers with 17 points. Adam Teague of Navy started strong and finished strong. For a better part of the game he was defended but still wound up hitting five treys and leading Navy with 16 points. “Army played a great game,” Navy coach Billy Lange said. “They defended great which is traditional Army basketball. I think by the end of the year Army will prove to be a very good basketball team and challenge the upper echelon of our (Patriot) league.”
Crews was pleased with the offense, which had been dormant, and the defensive effort over the course of the contest. “We sustained,” Crews said in reference to the tight finish. “They (Navy) can score in bunches and when you go out to stop their three point shooters they can go right around you.” Crews noted that Army-Navy is a rivalry ”known around the world.” He also made a very good point noting that the basketball rivalry becomes more intense because both schools share the same conference affiliation.
A good hard fought rivalry such as Army-Navy is something special to behold. The neatly attired Cadets and Midshipman cheering their teams. Both institutions bringing bands, a mascot and cheerleaders. The post game playing of the alma mater of both schools, with a packed house silently standing in reverence and respect. The epitome of good sportsmanship with not a verbal obscenity to be heard. Even the drive to Cristl Arena as you pass famed Miche Stadium along the winding hill with the majestic Hudson in your rear view mirror.
Yes, Army-Navy is special. Anytime. Everytime.