WEST POINT, N.Y. Matt Bell hit three three-pointers and scored a team-high 16 points to help lead the Army men’s basketball team past Navy, 53-50, in front of 3,904 spectators Sunday afternoon at Christl Arena. The victory, Army’s third in a row, ups the Black Knights’ record to 13-7 (3-2 Patriot League). Navy falls to 11-9 (1-4 Patriot League).
In the 105th meeting between the two rival service academies, Jarell Brown, Corban Bates and Doug Williams all added eight points apiece to help Army to its first 13-win season since the 1986-87 team compiled a final record of 14-15.
Williams, who produced a couple of rim-rattling dunks, added a career-high 10 rebounds for the Black Knights, who have reeled off three consecutive Patriot League victories for the first time since 1998-99 squad accomplished that feat.
“It was a hard-fought game, and I thought both teams played well defensively,” said Army head coach Jim Crews. “I thought Doug Williams did a great job defensively for us. He was instrumental in this victory. Our whole team stepped up today.”
Army, which led 25-23 at halftime, began the second half on a 12-4 run to open up a 37-27 advantage at the 14:47 mark. Bell scored eight of the Black Knights’ points during the spurt, which gave Army its largest lead of the game.
Three-pointers by T.J. Topercer, Adam Teague and Greg Sprink ignited an 11-0 Navy run that gave the Midshipmen their first lead of the second half at 38-37 with 9:34 to play.
The teams traded baskets until a conventional three-point play by Sprink gave Navy a 43-41 advantage at the 5:08 mark.
Army answered right back as Bates scored the Black Knights’ next six points, producing a conventional three-point play and hitting a three-pointer from the left corner to give Army a 47-43 lead that it would not relinquish.
After a couple of Sprink free throws made the score 47-45, Williams took an interior feed from Bates and threw down a slam dunk with the right hand to push Army's lead back up to four points at 49-45 with 2:38 showing on the clock.
After two free throws by Trey Stanton trimmed Army's lead to 49-47, Brown knocked down a jumper to put the Black Knights up 51-47. Navy was able to cut Army's lead to two points one last time at 52-50 after a three-pointer by Sprink with six seconds to go. A Bell free throw increased Army’s lead to 53-50 and Sprink’s three-point attempt from the left wing clanged off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
The first half was a back and forth affair that featured two ties and two lead changes. Cory Sinning scored Army’s first four points, helping the Black Knights to an 8-2 lead at the 13:36 mark.
Sprink jump-started Navy’s offense, scoring eight of the team’s points during a 15-6 scoring run that gave the Midshipmen a 17-14 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the opening stanza.
Bell hit two three-pointers as Army answered with an 8-0 spurt of its own to regain the lead at 22-17 at the 2:33 mark. Navy battled back to tie the score at 23-23 with 51 seconds remaining, but two Marcus Nelson free throws gave Army a 25-23 halftime lead.
Nelson finished the game with a game-high four assists to go along with nine rebounds and four points. Bates added seven rebounds, as Army held a 39-36 edge on the glass.
Army shot 39.2 percent from the floor, while holding Navy to 28.6 percent shooting. The Midshipmen were able to knock down just 22.6 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half. While the contest was a defensive struggle thoughout, neither team turned the ball over very much. Army finished with eight miscues, while Navy had nine.
Sprink finished with a game-high 19 points, while Torpercer added 11 points. Stanton chipped in eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
After arriving at the arena, Crews changed out of his suit and into Army BDUs (battle dress uniform) to coach the game.
"I've been blessed since I've been coaching here to be around cadets and officers, so I wanted to honor them," remarked Crews.
Crews, who, along with several other Division I men's basketball coaches, spent a week this past summer in Kuwait coaching basketball to U.S. soldiers as part of Operation Hardwood, wanted to honor them as well.
"I wanted to honor all of the men and women in the military overseas, who do so much for us," added Crews. "This is my small way of letting them know that I remember them."
Army returns to action on Wednesday, Jan. 24, when the Black Knights travel to Easton, Pa., to take on Lafayette. The game is slated to tip off at 7 p.m.