ANNAPOLIS -- As far as Army-Navy contests are concerned, there's no way anyone will make the mistake of including last night's game between the Patriot League's two worst teams among the classics.
In a game that more resembled a bad wrestling match than basketball, the Cadets outlasted the Midshipmen, 62-54, before 3,354 -- the biggest crowd to see a game at Alumni Hall.
For anyone who has followed either of the teams for the entire season, the quality of play was of no surprise. Army (3-21, 2-10) entered the game losers of six in a row and 19 of its past 20. The only two wins for the Cadets in their past 21 games have come against the Midshipmen (Army beat Navy, 64-56, earlier this month). Navy (6-18, 1-11) dropped to last place in the league.
It was Army's first win in Annapolis since 1977.
"This is the team we knew we could beat," said Army guard Craig Rose, who scored a career-high 11 points. "We had a lot of bad memories from the old [Halsey] fieldhouse. But this is something we expected to do."
Army was able to do it at the end with its free throws as nine of the last 11 points came from the line. Navy, which trailed by 10 with 3:46 left and never held a lead in the second half, was forced to foul in the closing minutes.
"We were helped by hitting our free throws at the end," said Army coach Tom Miller.
The Cadets also were helped by their best shooting performance of the year. A team that has shot just 37.5 percent from the field for the season, Army shot 53.8 percent for the game -- the first time all season the team's been better than 46.8 percent. It was the first-half shooting, when Army shot 61.9 percent on the way to a 30-20 halftime lead, that had Navy playing catch-up the rest of the game.
"We played poorly the first half -- our poorest performance of the season," said Navy coach Pete Herrmann. "Army dictated the tempo from the beginning."
The Cadets did it with their defense, which ranks as the best in the league. Navy was never able to get into its running game and the 20 points in the first half tied its lowest output this season (the other low was also against Army).
"I didn't feel we were aggressive with our shooting," Herrmann said. "And we couldn't get into our pressure [defense] because we weren't scoring."
Neither were the Midshipmen rebounding in the early going. For the game Army had a 28-21 rebounding edge, with Navy managing just two offensive boards during the extremely physical game. Navy's front-line players were dominated, and totaled 26 points and 11 rebounds.
"You just have to adjust and you have to play that way," Herrmann said of the game in which 41 fouls were called and words and shoves were exchanged on several occasions. "You just can't shy away and play tentatively."
The loss was a big disappointment for the Midshipmen who, although losing 10 conference games going into last night, had played most of the top teams in the league tough. At least Navy won't have to worry about playing Army again this season -- unless it's the extremely unlikely scenario of playing the Cadets in the Patriot League title game.
"We just dug ourselves a hole," Herrmann said. "And that digs your kids a confidence hole."
ARMY -- Staggs 4-12 6-6 15, Rose 1-2 8-10 11, Allen 2-3 1-2 5, Ardayfio 4-6 2-4 10, Harrison 3-4 0-0 6, Lyle 1-1 1-2 3, Fricka 6-11 0-0 12. Totals: 21-39 18-24 62.
NAVY -- Majick 5-10 2-2 14, Kozak 0-1 0-0 0, Cochran 1-2 0-0 2, Robinson 1-1 3-4 5, Wall 2-4 2-3 6, Haase 3-10 1-2 7, Mickel 2-4 0-1 5, Cougher 4-6 2-2 10, Cooper 2-5 1-4 5. Totals: 20-43 11-18 54.
Halftime--Army 30-20. 3-point goals--Army 2-4 (Staggs 1-3, Rose 1-1); Navy 3-13 (Majick 2-5, Kozak 0-1, Cochran 0-1, Haase 0-4, Mickel 1-3). Rebounds--Army 28 (Fricka 8); Navy 21 (Cougher 8). Assists--Army 16 (Rose); Navy 14 ( Mickel 4). Total fouls--Army 20; Navy 21. A--3,354.