The latest installment of the Army and Navy men’s basketball rivalry will take place Saturday at 4 p.m. at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. The Midshipmen lead the series 53-37, but the Black Knights have won the last two meetings and three of the last four.
As important as beating an archrival is, Navy has other things on its collective mind. The team is 6-8 overall and 1-2 in the Patriot League, and has lost five of its last six contests. That’s why coach Ed DeChellis isn’t putting more significance on the game against Army than any other league contest.
“Every game is important,” he said Wednesday. “This is a good league, and every game is really, really critical because you’re playing for seedings in the [conference] tournament at the end of the year. You’ve got to try to win your home games, and this is the next game on the schedule and the next game at home. We’ve played better at home than we have on the road like most teams do. So it’s important for a lot of reasons. We’d like to get back to 2-2 in the league -- it’s our rival. So we’ve got to play well. But we’re not going to win unless we play better. We’re not going to win unless we play better offensively, and we’re not going to win unless we make free throws. So we’ve got to clean up our own sinks if we’re going to be successful Saturday.”
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the Midshipmen and Black Knights have nipped at each other for years. Six of the past eight meetings have been decided by fewer than 10 points, and three of those games have been decided by no more than five points.
The weight of the series is no lost on the players, but DeChellis said he would like to see the players harness their emotions and played in a controlled manner.
“I think that in the first three or four minutes, hopefully, the jitters will be gone on both teams, and the teams settle in and play,” he said. “You get hit the first time and I think you settle into things. You worry about the guys coming off the bench and doing too much. But we’re a young team, and I think Army’s a young team with a couple seniors. So we’re both young teams, and they’ll come out and run around and be energized and make some mistakes. … All the games we’ve played have been very tight, physical. It really comes down to the last minute or two in the game. So I’m sure that’s how this one will go as well.”