Army and Navy are very similar on the football field, with both employing triple-option offenses designed to dominate possession and eat up the clock.
The Black Knights and Midshipmen are quite different on the basketball court.
Army wants to play at a fast pace, while Navy prefers to slow it down. The Black Knights like to go up and down the floor, while the Mids are more comfortable playing a half-court game.
Saturday’s initial showdown between the archrivals will likely come down to which team can impose its will.
“It’s a tale of two styles, without question. Tempo is going to play a big factor in the game,” Army coach Jimmy Allen said. “We’re one of the faster paced teams in country. Meanwhile, Navy is one of the slower paced teams.
“Can you get the game played at your pace?”
Allen, a former Navy assistant under Don DeVoe, has always preferred to play up-tempo, enjoying tremendous success at Division III Averett by pressing and running. Now in his sixth season on the sideline at West Point, Allen has steadily rebuilt the program to effectively employ his preferred playing style.
Army features three talented perimeter players, all of whom are adept at pushing the ball in transition. Guards Aaron Duhart, Josh Caldwell and Jalen Rucker can go end-to-end off missed shots. The Black Knights will also get the ball up the court in a hurry after made baskets.
“Army has great athleticism on the perimeter with Rucker, Duhart and Caldwell. Those three guys are all really good in the open court,” Navy coach Ed DeChellis said.
Army is averaging almost 72 points per game and that figure goes up against Patriot League opponents. Meanwhile, Navy is only giving up 60 points per game thanks to an aggressive, tenacious defense that has limited teams to 41% field-goal shooting.
DeChellis readily admits the Midshipmen want to keep the game in the 60s and the odds favor the Black Knights if they can get into the 70s.
“They want to drive the ball in the halfcourt or score in transition. They’re goal is to get to the basket for layups or get fouled,” DeChellis said. “Make or miss, they are really pushing the ball hard in transition.”
To speed up the game, Army will apply pressure in the backcourt. DeChellis said the Black Knights will trap the player receiving the inbounds pass and generally “try to junk it up” in hopes of creating turnovers and forcing teams to play faster than they want.
Army is led offensively by Rucker, a Baltimore native and Gilman graduate. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound sophomore is averaging 15.8 points and scoring multiple ways. DeChellis described Rucker as “extremely dynamic” and said he’s playing at an all-conference level.
“[Rucker] is a very versatile scorer. He’s very good with the ball in his hands and does a terrifc job of getting downhill and to the basket,” DeChellis said. “He’s also an excellent shooter and will make open threes.”
DeChellis plans to rotate defenders on Rucker with 6-foot-6 forward Tyler Nelson using length to his advantage and junior guard Sean Yoder bringing physicality. Guards Greg Summers and Austin Inge might also get a shot.
“We’ll see who has success guarding [Rucker]. We have to get a feel for how he’s playing and what they’re trying to do with him,” DeChellis said.
DeChellis called Caldwell, Army’s second-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, an “X factor” and is concerned about his slashing ability. The explosive 6-foot-2 senior is always looking to cut to the basket in the set offense and can easily get to the rim in transition.
Duhart is mostly a setup man, driving the ball into the lane and dishing to open teammates. The heady senior is a strong floor general and leads the Black Knights with 3.5 assists per game.
Forward Charlie Peterson is Army’s top inside threat and is averaging 8.0 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds. The 6-9 sophomore is a skilled scorer around the basket and has a decent mid-range game.
Army (11-8, 5-2) and Navy (12-6, 5-2) are part of a four-way tie atop the Patriot League standings along with Lehigh and Loyola Maryland. This will be the 136th meeting in the series that has been played for 90 straight years.
Navy leads the overall series 81-54, a gap created when the Annapolis academy won 23 of 24 matchups from 1993 through 2002. Army has won seven of the past 11 meetings, four of which went to overtime. An indication of how close the series has been of late comes from the fact both teams have scored exactly 722 points over the past 10 games.
Navy is looking to snap a two-game losing streak at Alumni Hall and needs leading scorer John Carter Jr. to snap out of mini slump. The 6-4 senior swingman scored just two points on only four shots in a home loss to Colgate, was limited to nine points during a victory at Boston University and made just 3 of 14 shots in Wednesday’s loss to Lehigh in Annapolis.
Carter is netting 13.5 points per game with Summers (10.4) the only other player averaging in double figures.
“As a group, we have not shot the ball well at home, which is a problem,” DeChellis said Thursday evening. “We just shot the ball well in practice today, so maybe that will boost our confidence.”
Navy has settled into a solid 10-man rotation with a reliable substitute at all five positions. Junior forwards Jaylen Walker, Daniel Deaver and Patrick Dorsey have all provided positive production off the bench with sophomore point guard Austin Inge and junior wing guard Christian Silva doing good things in relief of the starting backcourt.
“I think Navy is the deepest team in the league. They’re also as experienced as any team in the league with a lot of seniors and juniors,” Allen said. “When Navy is shooting the basketball well, they’re really hard to beat. That said, they’re so good defensively and rebounding the ball that they always give themselves a chance.”
Coleman leads Navy women
This is an Army-Navy doubleheader with the women playing the opener with an 11 a.m. tip-off. The Black Knights (8-7, 3-3) and Midshipmen (5-12, 2-5) are sixth and seventh, respectively, out of nine teams in the Patriot League standings.
Army is a relatively veteran team with seniors Alisa Fallon and Kate Murray leading the way.
“Army is a senior- and junior-laden team. They have a lot of kids who have played a lot of minutes and have been part of the Army-Navy rivalry more than our kids have,” Navy coach Tim Taylor said. “They’re experience concerns me, while their size and tenacity on the boards concerns me.”
Murray is listed at 6-foot, while junior Sabria Hunter check in at 6-1, which poses a problem for a Navy club that starts four guards. Senior captain Ciera Hertelendy is the only true post player, and she is averaging less than 17 minutes. There are many times during games when the Midshipmen have five guards on the floor.
Hunter is averaging a double-double with 10.9 points and 10.5 rebounds. She secured 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end that translated into second-chance points.
“We really need to do a good job of boxing out,” Taylor said. “It’s not just their size; it’s their physicality that worries me.”
Army is led offensively by Fallon, who is averaging 13.5 points and displaying the ability to score in the post, with mid-range jumpers or from beyond the arc. Junior forward Lindsey Llewellyn will initially draw the assignment of guarding Fallon, but Taylor said senior standout Jennifer Coleman will do so as well.
“I’ve been impressed with Fallon’s growth from last year to this year. She’s playing a lot more under control,” Taylor said. “She has the ball in her hands a lot more this season and has been very aggressive.”
Navy will no doubt need another prolific performance from Coleman, who leads the Patriot League in both scoring (23.6 points) and rebounding (10.6). Taylor has been pleased with the patience and efficiency of Coleman, who is shooting 43% from both the field and 3-point range.
Sophomore forward Sydne Watts is producing 9.4 points per game after reaching double digits in four of the last five games. Llewellyn is contributing just 6.2 points per game, while no one else on the team is averaging more than four.
“I think we’re getting and taking the right shots. We just need to start making them,” Taylor said.
ARMY VS. NAVY
Women: 11 a.m.
Men: 1:30 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 1430 AM