Navy surprises Army, avoids sweep

The Baltimore Sun

Tournament pressure doesn't compare to the prospect of being the first Navy team in 15 years to be swept by Army.

The Midshipmen avoided that ignominy yesterday, with a 76-68 victory that could go a long way in the Patriot League.

Junior wing Greg Sprink scored all 19 of his points in the last 14 minutes, plebe Trey Stanton made all four of his threes, and Stanton's classmate Chris Harris came off the bench to lead the three-quarter-court defensive pressure that caught the Black Knights off guard.

"We want to win every game we play," Sprink said, "but Army is always there."

The game drew 5,247, the ninth largest crowd in Alumni Hall history. Injured veterans of the war on terrorism recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were saluted in the second half, after the Navy football team was recognized at halftime.

The teams' football game garners global attention, but linebacker Rob Caldwell said that sentiment isn't restricted to the first Saturday in December.

"From Day One here, it's 'Go Navy, Beat Army,'" said Caldwell, who addressed the crowd and left it with those words. "This game's on CBS, so it's good that they're getting some recognition. Swimming, wrestling, the other sports might go unnoticed nationally, but beating Army is just as huge for them."

The second Army-Navy meeting is designated a Star Game, but this one was bigger than usual.

The Mids (14-13, 4-8) took sole possession of sixth place in the Patriot League, no small matter in a loop where tournament games go to the higher seed and Holy Cross and Bucknell are a cut above.

"This is a great win for our program," said coach Billy Lange, who wasn't overstating the case.

Army coach Jim Crews wore camouflage fatigues Jan. 21, when his side beat Navy at West Point. The Black Knights (13-14, 3-9) have since lost seven straight. Their first NCAA tournament remains a long way off, but Army has posted its most wins since 1986-87.

Before he heads to Fort Bliss, Texas, with a commission in air defense artillery, senior guard Matt Bell will spend a season as a graduate assistant to Crews.

"I was in his first recruiting class, and we're a lot better than when I got there," Bell said. "There used to be games in the Patriot League where we knew we couldn't stack up. This is the first season we've come into every game believing we can win."

Bell scored 16 points but had nine turnovers. A flurry came midway through the second half, when Lange placed Harris at the front of the 1-2-2 pressure that wasn't in Navy's arsenal when the month began.

That wrinkle loomed large, fitting for a bunch of guys destined for the Department of Defense.

ARMY-Nelson 1-4 0-0 2, Brewer 1-1 0-0 2, Williams 6-9 4-5 16, Bell 6-12 4-6 16, Sinning 1-6 3-6 5, Richard 2-6 2-4 7, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 1-2 0-0 2, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 5-7 5-5 18, Bates 0-0 0-2 0, Walker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 18-28 68. NAVY-Stanton 4-4 3-4 15, Fenske 0-2 0-0 0, Sprink 3-8 11-14 19, Johnson 0-2 2-2 2, Kina 5-8 3-7 14, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-5 1-2 1, Colbert 1-1 0-0 2, Brigham 2-3 0-0 6, Topercer 3-5 0-0 8, Teague 3-6 2-2 9. Totals 21-44 22-31 76. Half-Navy, 29-26. 3-point goals-Army 4-9 (Brown 3-4, Richard 1-2, Sinning 0-1, Bell 0-2), Navy 12-24 (Stanton 4-4, Brigham 2-2, Sprink 2-3, Topercer 2-3, Kina 1-2, Teague 1-3, Johnson 0-1, Fenske 0-2, Harris 0-4). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Army 29 (Williams 6), Navy 27 (Johnson, Sprink 5). Assists-Army 10 (Bell, Nelson 3), Navy 17 (Harris, Kina 5). Total fouls-Army 25, Navy 23. A-5,247.

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