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Army hits the road, hits Navy harder

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Army - Navy basketball doesn’t quite elicit the historical passion as its fall counterpart, but somebody failed to tell the players. After overcoming an abysmal start and a mid-second-half slump, the Black Knights did what their football counterparts haven’t accomplished in 13 years. A victory over the Midshipmen. Army’s 60-55 win at Navy’s Alumni Hall Saturday resulted in a few things.

It gave Army a 4-0 start in Patriot League play, which maintains its first-place tie with Boston University and American, both of which won Saturday The victory was also the Black Knights’ fifth in a row, and after losing the first six games of the season, they now having a winning record of 8-7. Such a result didn’t appear likely early.

Navy scored the first seven points of the game, and it did so managing to slow the pace of the game down to a near crawl. In fact, the game was more than two minutes old before either team scored; Navy finally did so when Kendall Knorr hit a three-pointer with 17 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first half. The game was more than five minutes old before Army finally managed to score, a jumper by Mo Williams. That began a 12-1 streak that gave the Black Knights a 12-8 lead.

Navy responded by scoring 16 of the final 24 first-half points to take a 24-20 lead. The game took a rather drastic turn in the second half, when the Black Knights scored the first 12 points, taking their biggest lead of the game, 32-24, in just 3:10. It was then the Midshipmen’s turn, and they regained the lead, helped in large part by their 3-point shooting. During a 14-4 run Michael Brown hit two three pointers and Knorr and Brandon Venturini hit one each. Navy took its final lead, 44-42, on Worth Smith’s jumper with 9:06 remaining.

Almost three minutes later, the Black Knights took the lead for good on Tanner Plomb’s layup. That was the beginning of an 18-11 streak that put the game away. Kyle Wilson, who was scoreless in the first half, scored nine of Army’s final 10 points, including a three-pointer that just beat the shot clock and gave Army a 56-49 lead with 2:16 left in the game. Plomb led the team with 15 points.

***

The 60 points were the least Army scored in a victory since its last trip to Navy, a 56-55 win last season. Army entered the game averaging just over 76 points per game. The Black Knights made only seven of their 25 first-half shots, but still ended the game shooting almost 45 percent thanks to 15 of 24 shooting in the second.

The victory was Army’s third straight victory at Annapolis; it’s the longest such winning streak at Navy since the Black Knights won five straight between the 1964-65 and 1972-73 seasons. It was also Army head coach Zack Spiker’s fifth victory over the Midshipmen; two Army coaches have beaten Navy six times – Bobby Knight and Jim Crews.

Spiker also became the first Army coach since Les Wothke to win at least 60 games in his first five seasons. Wothke did so from 1982 – 87.

Navy was without its leading scorer, Tillman Dunbar, who is serving an indefinite suspension for violating unspecified academy rules. Dunbar has been out six games; he had been averaging 11.9 points per game.

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