Army may have Navy's number in football, with the Cadets having won the past five fall meetings. But the opposite has proved true on the basketball court, where the Midshipmen have dominated the interservice rivalry the past decade, winning 12 of their past 13 Patriot League games.
But the latest Navy victory proved a real struggle.
Playing before a national TV audience and a sellout crowd of 5,710 at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, the Mids needed a clutch three-point shot by sophomore forward Seth Schuknecht with 1: 40 left to survive a second-half rally by the Cadets, 68-64.
Navy (13-8, 5-2) led 57-46 with 8: 27 remaining when its offense turned stagnant.
"We had trouble even running a play," said coach Don DeVoe.
Meanwhile, Army (9-10, 3-4) used the outside shooting of Babe Kwasniak and Jamie Uptgraft to close to 61-57.
After Navy's Hassan Booker made one of two free throws, forward Justin Johnson pulled the Cadets into a 62-62 tie, first hitting a layup and then sinking a three-pointer with 2: 15 left.
The Mids called time and displayed a lot of emotion and animated talk between the coaches and players.
"It was like a gut check for us," said DeVoe. "We'd lost all our momentum in the second half. If we hadn't had that 11-point cushion [43-32], we wouldn't have won this game. But I wasn't that surprised. Army has been making strong comebacks all season."
DeVoe designed a play to get the ball into the hands of his leading scorer, Michael Heary, who was coming off a personal-high, 38-point performance against Holy Cross Wednesday night.
But the Cadets did an excellent job of denying Heary the ball.
"If Heary's not open, the play is designed to break Schuknecht open at the top of the key," DeVoe said.
But there was a problem with that option. Schuknecht had converted only two of his previous 18 three-point attempts, and DeVoe had a hard time remembering his last successful one.
But with only one second remaining on the shot clock, Schuknecht had no choice. His shot from far behind the key fell cleanly through the net.
"I think the last one I made was two months ago," Schuknecht said with a laugh.
DeVoe insisted he had not lost confidence in the 6-foot-6 forward, who came to Navy from Paradise Valley, Ariz., with the reputation of being an excellent scorer.
"Honestly, I had no trouble with Seth taking that shot," DeVoe said. "He's a much better shooter than he has shown thus far this season."
After George Tatum missed a chance to tie it when his three-pointer bounced off the rim, Heary (16 points) gave Navy a 67-62 edge with 28 seconds remaining by hitting a pull-up jumper in the lane.
Navy kept Army from scoring again until Johnson made a layup with three seconds left, too late to make a difference.
"I thought we lost this game in the first half," said Army coach Dino Gaudio. "We gave Navy 23 points on fast breaks and second shots, and we were constantly on our heels."
But all that changed in the second half when Navy hit only seven of 21 shots as Army nullified the Mids' fast break and took away the inside game of Booker.
ARMY -- Wands 2-6 0-0 5, Johnson 5-11 0-0 11, Glowe 0-3 0-0 0, Kwasniak 4-10 0-1 10, Tatum 6-16 0-1 13, Rainet 3-3 7-8 13, Uptgraft 4-9 0-0 10, Goins 0-0 0-0 0, Pearson 1-2 0-0 2, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 7-10 64.
NAVY -- Green 3-6 0-0 6, Booker 4-6 1-2 9, Palumbo 1-2 3-4 5, Heary 5-17 3-4 16, Walker 2-10 3-4 7, Hickmon 2-4 2-2 7, Sladky 0-0 2-2 2, Smith 1-1 3-3 5, Schuknecht 4-6 0-0 9, Williams 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-54 17-21 68.
Halftime-- Navy 43-32. 3-point goals-- Army 7-21 (Wands 1-1, Johnson 1-2, Kwasniak 2-3, Tatum 1-8, Uptgraft 2-7), Navy 5-15 (Green 0-1, Walker 0-2, Heary 3-9, Schuknecht 1-1, Hickmon 1-2). Fouled out -- Glowe. Rebounds -- Army 35 (Tatum 10), Navy 36 (Booker 9). Assists -- Army 13 (Tatum 5), Navy 12 (Walker 7). Total fouls--Army 19, Navy 16. A--5,710.
Pub Date: 2/02/97