Army hangs for a half before reality takes over in South Bend

Perhaps relaxed by the knowledge that no matter what happened, there was no way they could embarrass the Pentagon more than Navy had on Saturday, Army came out smoking against a Notre Dame team that has been notorious for slow starts much of the season.

According to the AP story posted on Army's Web site:
Army (2-7) jumped to a 21-5 lead by making 8-of-10 shots while holding Notre Dame (5-2) to just 2-of-14 shooting. But the Black Knights shot just 31 percent the rest of the game while the Irish shot 45 percent and outrebounded Army 47-28 to take control . . .

Army was unstoppable at the start of the game. The Black Knights scored at will, with 6-foot Matt Bell dribbling across the middle of the paint and shooting over the bigger Irish for an easy basket. They also hit from outside, with Sewell, who is 6-11, hitting a 3-pointer.
Remarkably, the Mids managed to hold the lead most of the first half and went to the intermission tied 30-30.

The second half, though, was all Irish. After Travis Owsley came up with a steal and finished with a layup at the other end to give Army a 32-30 advantage, ND's Jordan Cornette hit a three for the lead. The Irish never trailed after that, building a lead of as many as 22 points.

It turned out to be a not-so-happy homecoming for Bell, a native of Kokomo, Ind. Army's leading scorer finished with just 6 points (box score) and turned the ball over 5 times. Notre Dame's defense pretty much took him out of the game, limiting Bell, who averages taking a dozen shots a game, to four shots all afternoon.

From the sounds of Todd Burlage's story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Notre Dame might have taken the Black Knights lightly at the start.
“I wasn’t ready for that. Merry Christmas, huh … was not ready for that,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of trailing for all but two seconds of the first half.
Even with the big early lead, Jim Crews knew reality was always just around the corner.
Army, coached by Jim Crews of Indiana playing fame and the long-time coach at Evansville, brought a disciplined group and a solid plan to hang with the Irish early. Crews just didn’t have the horses to carry it through.

Even with his team leading early, Crews knew it was going to be tough to hang on, mainly because there was no way to sustain 75 percent shooting.

“Sometimes when the score is one thing, it’s not quite the reality of it,” Crews said. “It wasn’t a lack of intensity by Notre Dame, we were just playing pretty well and eventually got wore out."

Lou Somogyi at said the season is the reason:
Christmas vacation at Notre Dame began on Friday, and the Irish men's basketball team stayed on holiday during the first ten minutes of their Sunday afternoon clash with Army.
So, is it time to rethink Army? Could the Cadets be better than we thought. Not good, but maybe not as bad?

The next three games on the Army schedule should tell. If the Knights have a winnable road game on the rest of their slate, it is probably the Dec. 30 visit to Fairleigh Ridiculous. Not saying FDU is a pushover by any stretch, but they are no Notre Dame. Their 4-6 record is tough to figure. They have some losses to tough teams, but none of the wins are particularly impressive and other than Division II Dominican, FDU has not won at home.

After that Army hosts Cornell and Columbia. Army won't be the favorite against either, but they won't be prohibitive underdogs either. Should they fail in all three remaining non-conference games, a season with no wins over a Division I foe is entirely possible, although they do get a home game against Navy on Jan. 23.

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