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AU stays close for a while

It was close for a while in College Park. American shot the lights out early, hitting 7-of-its-first 9 from the field.

With seven minutes to go in the first half, the Eagles were up six.

Jeff Zrebiec fills in some of the details in the Baltimore Sun:
The Eagles, who had won five straight coming in but were beaten by the Terps by 31 last year, trailed by only two at halftime and then crept within 48-47 on a three-point play by Thomas with 13 minutes remaining.
What happened next depends on who you talk to.

Eric Prisbell in the Washington Post said:
Maryland needed a 16-0 run midway through the second half to finally grab control from the Eagles . . .

The Terps relied heavily on their press during the run, taking advantage of their depth.
We'll come back to that word "depth" in a moment.

Convinced of their absolute superiority, Maryland players gave little credit to AU.

"We came out flat," said the Terps' Nik Caner-Medley in the story in the Moonie.

He told Prisbell:
"I think we might have been a little too relaxed coming into the game. A little nonchalant."
Maryland's John Gilchrist blamed school work and Santa:
"We were coming off finals and the break was coming up. A lot of guys were thinking about Christmas. I know I personally was. It was just like one last stop before we get to see our families. That was the most difficult part.
We will defer to Matt over at the Patriot League Blog. He was at the game and when he gets past his pregame-preparations-and-first-half- enthusiasm-induced hangover (which was undoubtedly further enhanced by tear-diluted beers after), we are sure he will give us the scoop on what he saw.

Having seen a few of these games, where good Patriot League teams give the big kids a wedgie or two before finally getting beat up, my guess is he will tell us it was AU's good play, as much as any sleepwalking by Maryland, that accounted for the close game early.

Take a look at the first half box. AU shot 50 percent in the first half and only turned it over 6 times. In the second half, they shot only 40 percent and had almost twice as many turnovers.

Did Maryland turn it up in the second half. Probably. But the bigger factor was more likely, as Jeff Jones pointed out in the Post, what happened to the Eagles late in the game.
"I think we got worn down," American Coach Jeff Jones said. "Maryland just kept coming at us and I think Gary saw that we looked a little bit tired and put on the press and we didn't respond."
Remember I said we would get back to talking about depth. That continues to be the one thing that keeps me from penciling in the Eagles as a bracket host in March. The starters are piling up a lot of minutes and the bench is not contributing much.

Look at the final box. Even though AU's reserves got far minutes than usual due to the Terps' big lead in the second half, they still only contributed 15 points combined.

A Jones quote that didn't make any of the game stories:
"We played pretty well for 30 minutes or so. We gave it an effort, but when you get tired, if you want to be able to compete against teams like this, you have to come up with a special effort. And that means even when your lungs are burning and your legs feel like lead, you still have to be able to think and you still have to be able to get up and down the court and do the things that you were doing prior to that."
We are not suggesting that a deeper bench would have resulted in AU beating Maryland. It is pretty common for the upper echelon teams to wear down opponents in buy games even when those opponents have some help coming off the pine. But the wear and grind of a season can do that, too. Therein lies the concern about AU.

Unless the bench starts to step up, this could be a recurring theme, especially in that late February stretch of the conference schedule when the Eagles play four in a row on the road.

That stretch starts with a home game Feb. 6 with Holy Cross, which you just know will be a big game. Then the Eagles head north for a Bucknell-Colgate swing. That Colgate game, in particular, looks like a potential trouble spot. Hamilton is never a fun spot, let alone on the tail end of a two-game trip. Add in the fact that AU will face the Raiders after back-to-back games with Holy Cross and Bucknell, and the makings of a letdown game are all there.

The following week they head to the Lehigh Valley, where about that time Lafayette should be coming together and in full upset mode in Kirby and Lehigh, even though they have been disappointing thus far, won't be a gimme.

OVERTIME: Rather than add on a bunch of game notes, we'll just give you a link to Maryland's fine postgame notes page. It's no wonder so many writers want to cover the big time schools. The SIDs at those places almost write your story for you.

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AU-Maryland on tap

On tap tonight: American visits No. 21 Maryland. Win this one, AU fans, you deserve to storm the court.

None of the "experts" give AU a chance in this game.

According to the Washington Post this will be a chance for Gary Williams to get some minutes for his bench. The moonie paper's preview plays the "Williams used to coach AU" angle.

Likewise, the Baltimore Sun made mention that Williams "will be facing the school tonight that gave him his first head-coaching job in 1978. Williams is 8-0 against American and his team won last season's meeting by 31 points."

Not one of these three previews mentions any AU players or says anything about how well the Eagles have been playing.

If the Terps take them as lightly as the writers, AU just might make this interesting.

Not predicting any upset. But stranger things have happened when teams get caught looking past an opponent.

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Bucknell win sends message

Charles Lee is no Bobby Thompson.

Lee's shot was not heard 'round the world.

But rest assured, Lee's 19-foot with less than a second to go last night in Lewisburg has been heard 'round the Patriot League.

Lee's bucket, off a set piece on an inbounds that sent Kevin Bettencourt to the opposite corner as a decoy while Lee ran off a screen in front of the Bucknell bench, gave Bucknell a very impressive 76-74 win (box score) over a quality Niagara team.

It sent a message to the rest of the league. In no uncertain terms it put the other seven teams on notice. The skeptics who thought the Bison (7-5) were overrated when the league's coaches picked them to win the title in a preseason poll, are now thinking twice about having written them off at the beginning of the month.

It is understandable how it might have looked to those casual observers from afar. When the Bison lost two of three at the end of Nov., then started Dec. with a loss at Penn, it was easy to wonder if American, or maybe Holy Cross, might be more deserving of the favorite's role.

Neither of those teams has done anything to diminish their early season luster. But after Lee's shot gave Bucknell a win over a Niagara (6-4) team that beat American (by seven, at home, very early in the season), and a four-game win streak to boot, those who chose to dismiss the Bison will be forced to reconsider.

You don't need to take our word for it. Just ask Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. "We played American U," said Mihalich unsolicited. "We think (Bucknell) is the best team in the Patriot League."

Mihalich did not elaborate. We can only speculate why he thinks so highly of Bucknell. Based on what Mihalich saw last night, we'd guess it is because of the way Bucknell played both ends of the court. There are teams in the Patriot League that will outscore you and teams that will honker down in tough half court defense to beat you. Bucknell showed it can do both.

You would not know it by the score- in the mid 70s is not what you usually think of as Pat Flannery's preferred pace. Keep in mind, Niagara came in leading the nation in scoring, averaging 90 points per game.

It might not be obvious from the box score-- Niagara shot 48 percent from the field-- but Bucknell's defense, ranked No. 14 in the country, did a fantastic job. They didn't shut down Niagara, but they did control the tempo of the game.

"We felt coming in-- it was all over our report-- that we couldn't play the way they wanted to. We had to play the way we wanted to," said Flannery. "We certainly didn't want to get in a shootout with them."

This Niagara team is loaded with offensive weapons. They are an athletic bunch that likes to get up and down the floor like the Bucknell teams of the Charlie Woollum era. Yet my notes don't show a single uncontested layup or anything I would classify as a fast break bucket. Bucknell forced Niagara to play halfcourt offense on almost every possession.

To their credit, the Eagles handled the chore admirably. They shot the lights out, especially in the first half, when they shot 50 percent from the field, including 5 treys. Some of those shots came from good ball movement, finding the open man, often Alvin Cruz, who led Niagara with 21 points, who was nearly automatic in the first half (5-for-7, 3-for-4 on 3-pointers).

Niagara scored, but not quickly, and they had to work for every point.

"Halfcourt, we really wore them down a lot," said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery.

At the other end, Bucknell ran its patient half court offense precisely, The Bison methodically worked through their patterns, cutting and screening until they found Chris McNaughton inside or an open shooter on the perimieter when the Niagara defenders were slowed by a pick or dropped off to help on McNaughton.

"Everything we did was in a halfcourt set," said Flannery, "with picks and screens and rolls."

Remind me again, where did I read a preview that said:
Tempo will be key. Bucknell will look to control the pace by running patient halfcourt sets and honkering down on defense, mixing in enough matchup zone to cause Niagara some confusion. If Bucknell can shoot the ball well, it will also help the defense since Niagara can't run on made shots.
McNaughton, who has started to come on strong of late, was almost unstoppable. Just ask Niagara's best player, Juan Mendez, who scored 18 points in 23 minutes, but could play no longer because he fouled out trying to guard McNaughton. McNaughton finished with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field.

Mendez, the 6-8 Canadian import who is second to Calvin Murphy on Niagara's all-time scoring list, was a tough matchup for Bucknell with his ability to step out and shoot the three. Of Mendez's 18 points, 9 came on 3-pointers. Mendez was less effective down low, in part because Bucknell double- and triple-teamed him whenever he got the ball within 10 feet of the basket.

On paper, with Mendez out, it is a very different Niagara team.

"To not have your All-American on the floor, it hurts you," said Mihalich.

"Nobody feels bad when Chris McNaughton is in foul trouble, so I don't feel real bad that Mendez was in foul trouble," said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery.

That All-American stuff seems a stretch. Maybe Mihalick meant "All-Canadian.". Mendez only needs 71 points to become the all-time leading Canadian scorer in Division 1.

Regardless, he was easily, as Cruz pointed out, Niagara's best player. His inability to handle McNaughton on the defensive end gave Bucknell the edge in the best player vs. best player matchup.

To their credit, Niagara actually built a 7-point lead with Mendez on the bench after picking up his fourth personal. The lead was still six when Melendez left for good with 6:05 to play, less than two minutes after he returned to the floor. As quickly as he hit back-to-back buskets, the first a trey, to give Niagara a 69-63 lead, Mendez foolishly came from the weak side to try to contest a McNaughton dunk after he'd beaten his defender with a nice drop step from the right side of the key.

Bettencourt also scored 21 for the Bison. With Bettencourt's stroke and range, it is easy to think of him as a "shooter" (as opposed to a "scorer"). Against Niagara, Bettencourt shot his threes (3-for-5), but where he did his real damage was in the paint, fearlessly challenging bigger men on his way to the hole. Bettencourt's penetration earned him 8 trips to the foul line. He made all 8 shots. He also dished off 7 assists (0 turnovers).

I probably should have mentioned sooner that this was a fantastic ballgame. Often games are lost more than they are won. Not this one. Niagara played superb basketball. On the road, against a team that managed to slow its chuck-and-duck, and with its best player limited to 23 minutes of action, most teams might have lost by a wide margin. Yet the Purple Eagles came within James Mathis' Christian Laetner-esque catch-and-turn prayer from the top of the arc that drew iron, but bounced away, at the buzzer of picking up a win.

Aside from 17 turnovers and Mendez's bad judgment in picking up his fifth foul (or Mihalick's bad judgment leaving Mendez on the floor after he picked up his second personal with 2:37 to play in the first half. He picked up his third personal less than 40 seconds later), there was little to find fault with about Niagara.

Which is what makes the win so impressive. Bucknell did not beat Niagara on an off night. Niagara played very well. Bucknell played a little better.

"I'm anxious to get a tape of it and sit down and watch it," said Flannery. "It was a great college basketball game . . . It was a great win."

NOTE: When we posted this last night, we promised more links this morning. Not sure why, but for some reason Tom Housenick's story from the Daily Item didn't make their Web site this morning. Chris Brady's story from the Standard-Journal should be on their site when they update later today.

Elsewhere: Lafayette 73, Moravian 56 (box score) -- Corky Blake did a nice job in his story in the Express-Times of finding an interesting angle to write about an otherwise not-very-interesting game:
With three Betleys on the court at the same time and the son of Lafayette's greatest scorer wearing a Moravian uniform, the game took on the feel of a family affair.
Also, here is an interesting line from Andre Williams' story in the Morning Call:
After finally getting into gear, Lafayette demonstrated much of the same offensive punch that had helped it score a season-high 95 points in a 95-89 win over Cal-State Northridge on Dec. 13 in Easton.
Well, maybe that is true. But how on earth would the Morning Call know? You might recall that after that Lafayette win over CSN, we went looking for a Morning Call story to link to.

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.500 night for the Patriot

Holy Cross and Navy carry the banner on a 2-2 night for league teams.

Holy Cross 84, Brown 71 box score -- It was the Keith Simmons show in Providence. The 6-4 sophomore came off the bench to score 30 points in a game that was a little out of character for the usually defensive minded Crusaders.

Ralph Willard told the Providence Journal:
"I'm not sure who this team was tonight. It was like watching an NBA game for a while. Both teams were working hard on defense. But there wasn't great communication. As a consequence, there were a lot of open looks."
The Crusaders scored 50 points in the first half. They only averaged 59 a game coming in, and that number was skewed by a 79-point performance against Marist, the only game in which HC had scored more than 60 all season.

Simmons, who came into the game averaging just over 8 points per game, hit 11-of-14 from the field, including a perfect 6-for-6 from outside the arc.

As Paul Kenyon points out in the Projo story:
Simmons was not alone. Kevin Hyland, who like Simmons came off the bench, hit all seven of his shots, all in the first half, on the way to 14 points, a career high. For the night, the Crusaders shot 58.9 percent (33 for 56) from the field and 61.5 percent (8 for 13) on 3-pointers.
Keep in mind, this is a team that entered the game shooting 40 percent from the field.

It might be worth noting that if you pull Simmons' and Hyland's numbers out of the mix, the rest of the Crusaders were 15-for-35 from the field, a very Holy Cross-like 43 percent showing.

You just know Willard couldn't be happy with the Crusaders defense, especially in the first half when Brown shot 57-percent from the field. The Bears' 42 first-half points were the most HC has allowed in a half all season. Only Minnesota (72) has scored more against the 'Saders in a game.

As Simmons told the Projo, when Kenyon asked about the 11-straight shots HC made during one stretch:
"Coach is very defensive-minded. I think he'll be happier with the nine straight defensive stops."
An interesting note tacked to the end of Jen Toland's story in the Worcester Telegram:
HC’s bench players accounted for 37 of the Crusaders’ first-half points as Simmons, Doherty, Hyland and Tim Clifford combined to make 16 of 17 shots.
Xavier 69, Lehigh 63 (box score) -- According to the Cincinnati Enquirer's story:
Xavier led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but with 1:44 to play, the margin had been cut to four points.

Suddenly, a fourth straight loss seemed like a shocking possibility . . .

Lehigh got no closer, as Xavier converted its free throws in the final minute.
Enquirer writer Dustin Dow made Cinci homeboy Nick Monserez sound like the second coming of Brett Eppehimer:
Moeller graduate Nick Monserez scored a game-high 20 points for Lehigh, which might have fared much worse in the first half without him. With the Moeller High School team in attendance, Monserez didn't miss a shot in the first half, scoring 12 points, nine from 3-point range. He finished 4-of-5 shooting from long range.
On the other hand, highly touted transfer Jose Olivero finished with 5 points on 2-of-9 shooting. In his last three games against Division I opponents, the second coming of Austin Rowland is 5-for-31 from the field, 19 points. No, that is not an average. That's his combined stats in the losses to Columbia, Harvard and Xavier.

In the game story on Lehigh's Web site, Billy Taylor said the Hawks "are going to try and use this game as a step in the right direction."

Something tells me the direction Taylor wants to go requires more from Olivero and less dependence on Monserez, who has reached double figures just two other times this season and is as capable of taking a collar as he is of lighting it up (as evidenced by the three Lehigh games this season in which he has not made a single field goal).

Navy 90, Mt. St. Mary's 81 (box score)-- Rick Belz of the Baltimore Sun said defense was the key for the Mids.

There's also a story in the Frederick News-Post. You'll need a password to read it. Feel free to use ours: hooptime (along with our e-mail address).

Loyola Marymount 64, Colgate 54 (box score) -- Here's the story from Colgate's Web site.

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Niagara falls into Sojka

A pretty fair test on tap tonight when Bucknell hosts Niagara, a team some in Lewisburg say, after Pitt, might be the best team the Bison will face this season.

Niagara (5-3) is coming off a 111-75 win over St. Bonaventure. Bonnies coach Anthony Solomon offered this scouting report inthe Buffalo News story about the Bonnies' lopsided loss:
"Niagara certainly has a lot of offensive weapons. And they started using them in the second half from every part of the court."
The most potent of those weapons is 6-8 Juan Mendez, the second-leading scorer in Niagara history (behind Calvin Murphy). In his College Basketball Extra column (scroll down)'s Mark Simon points out Mendez needs only 118 points to set an NCAA record for scoring by a Canadian born player.

From College Hoops Net's Niagara Basketball Preview:
They return three starters and five players who saw minutes in every game. Add a solid recruiting class and Niagara is looking to come out on top of the Metro Atlantic this year.
All three losses have come on the road, one by five points at Providence of the Big East and a double-overtime three-point loss against a very good Buffalo team. The puzzler is a Dec. 5 loss, 97-89, at Loyola (Md.). It is Loyola's only win thus far. The Greyhounds even lost at home against Navy.

Loyola beat Niagara by getting to the foul line 53 times.

According to a recap of that game:
Scoring 42 points in the paint, the Greyhounds were the aggressors and drew 37 Purple Eagle fouls.
Looking at the box score, I notice that two of Niagara's starting guards, plus 6-3 swingman Charron Fisher, all fouled out. Combined that pattern, Loyola's 42 points in the paint and a 27-point night by a guard who shot just one three, and it makes you wonder if the formula for beating Niagara involves taking the ball to the hole.

This does not look like a team that likes to play defense, they are allowing over 77 points per game. The Eagles don't look to like playing halfcourt offense much either. You don't put up 90 points a night running patterns or making backdoor cuts.

Tempo will be key. Bucknell will look to control the pace by running patient halfcourt sets and honkering down on defense, mixing in enough matchup zone to cause Niagara some confusion. If Bucknell can shoot the ball well, it will also help the defense since Niagara can't run on made shots.

This would be a chance for Bucknell to reclaim the role of Patriot League favorites. Should be a good one.

Of course between students on break and holiday distractions, hardly anybody will see it.

Elsewhere tonight:

Lafayette hosts D-3 Moravian

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Shoppers not the only busy ones

Finals are over, and before they break for the holidays, everybody in the league is looking to sneak in a game this week. Except, that is, for Army, which lost at Notre Dame Sunday.

Four games make tonight the busiest schedule of the week. Topping the list, struggling Lehigh is in Cincinnati to take on a Xavier team that is struggling in its own right.

These are not Thad Matta's Musketeers. After going 26-11 last season, making it to the NCAA Regional Final, Xavier has a new coach (former Matta assistant Sean Miller), an almost new roster with just one senior (of the nine players in Sean Miller’s rotation, six are sophomores or freshmen, including four of the team’s top six scorers) and a 2-4 record.

Before Lehigh fans get thinking upset here, it is worth noting that Xavier’s four losses have come at the hands of Miami (Oh), Creighton, Tennessee and Mississippi St, the last three. by a combined total of 10 points.

The last 12 minutes against Mississippi St. Saturday was the Muskies' best stretch of the season, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which says Miller hopes to build on that against Lehigh.

The Enquirer's Dustin Dow says team defense is permanently at the top of Miller's list "as Xavier hosts Lehigh (4-5) at 7:30 p.m. today at Cintas Center, Miller has some other concerns as well."

Also in the Enquirer, Dow explains the reality of this game in no uncertain terms:
Up next are three home games, against Lehigh (Tuesday), Indianapolis Purdue-Fort Wayne (Dec. 28) and Marshall (Dec. 30). Those so-called "guarantee games" - the opponents receive a paycheck in return for Xavier getting a very winnable home game - present Xavier an opportunity to be better than .500 going into the Iowa State game Jan. 3, the last game before the Atlantic 10 season.
Elsewhere tonight:
Holy Cross at Brown: The Crusaders are boasting a lofty 52 RPI ranking this week. It's the league's best RPI, though American is the lone Patriot team receiving a vote in this week's AP Poll (Thanks you John!)

We're not sure how much stock the RPI deserves, though the guys who hand out the dance invites seen enamored by it. Here's a perfect example of the RPI's flaws:

This week, 184 Robert Morris, a 1-6 team, is ranked one spot ahead of 185 Bucknell, a team with a winning record (5-4, D-3s do not count) that includes a 15-point whooping put on Robert Morris.

Coach Ralph has posted a little more explanation about his recent remarks regarding scheduling and the RPI.

Brown, 4-4, by the way, has not played since a Dec. 8 win over New Hampshire.

This is Brown's first game against a Patriot League team this season. The Ivies currently lead the season series 9-4 with 10 games to play. If the Ivies go on to win the season series, it would end the Patriot League's two-year run. The Ivies last took the series in 2001-02, when they won 14 of 22 against a league with very limited scholarship players.

The past two seasons, as scholarship talent began to fill the Patriot rosters (except at Lafayette, which we will get to in a moment), the Patriot's seemed to be gaining an advantage, holding a 12-10 edge in 2002-03 and winning the series last season 14-6.

As for Lafayette and scholarships, our pal Corky Blake at the Express-Times had a nice piece on Lafayette's new president and why this might not be the guy who makes scholarships his legacy:
Nowhere in his lengthy resume does it suggest (Daniel)Weiss is a sports nut who will arrive on College Hill and make athletic scholarships Priority No. 1.

According to Lafayette's press release, Weiss is a leading authority on the art of medieval Europe in the Age of Crusades.

Attention Patriot League fans: This has nothing to do with paintings of the Holy Cross Crusaders.
Two other games on tap: Loyola Marymount visits Colgate and Navy travels to Emmittsburg, Md. to meet Mount St. Mary's.

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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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Lange's Mids do the limbo

Just when you thought nobody could be more of an embarrassment to the Patriot League than Army, along comes Navy with a 75-69 home loss to Division 3 Gettysburg.

How low can you go?

Bill Wagner of the Annapolis Capital summed things up pretty well in one sentence:
Last night's result may have shown just how far Navy has fallen and how much work Lange has to do in order to turn the program around.
To fully appreciate how bad a loss this is, take a look at Gettysburg's schedule. The Bullets don't even have a winning record against other D-3 teams.

As we pointed out yesterday, this is not the first time this has happened. Gettysburg upset the Mids in Don Devoe's first season (1992-93). Something tells me Devoe didn't try to spin it the way his successor, Billy Lange did.
Lange thought Gettysburg (3-4) was one of the better teams Navy (3-6) has played this season.
Sorry Billy. If that is true. If a D-3 with a losing record is one of the better teams you have played, and you have a 3-6 record, something is horribly wrong on the banks of the Severn.

Actually, as a Navy press release on points out, losing to a Division III team almost a tradition. It's like the hoops version of climbing the Herndon Monument:
The loss is Navy's second loss to a Division III school in the last three years.
In the Capital, Wagner pointed out that most of the Gettysburg damage was done by Mike Spadafora, a transfer from D-I Duquesne, who poured in 26 points (box score). Reading that will help soothe the pain of some Navy fans I suppose. As long as nobody tells them Spadafora was a walk-on at Duquesne who only played in four games, and scored just four points, in his two-year career with the Dukes (he redshirted his first season).

To aid with their denial, don't tell those Navy optimists Gettysburg had nobody over 6-6 on its roster.

By the way, Bucknell fans might take interest in one game note. This was win 199 of George Petrie's 15-plus seasons as head coach at Gettysburg. Petrie, of course, spent almost as long in Lewisburg as an assistant to Charlie Woollum back in the day.

At least Colgate managed to hold serve against Hobart.

Lehigh, on the other hand, continues to unimpress. This time it was Harvard, playing without its leading scorer and rebounder, 7-foot center Brian Cusworth, that did the damage, downing the Hawks 67-56. It was Lehigh's third straight loss to a Division I foe. Lehigh's only win this month came against D-3 Eastern.

Here's how John Connolly broke down the box score in the Boston Herald:
Harvard, which has outrebounded its opponent in 8-of-9 games this season, held a 44-31 advantage yesterday including 14-8 on the offensive glass. Harvard won virtually every category, including points in the paint (26-14), points off turnovers (12-7), second-chance points (10-4), and fast-break points (4-0). The lone area in which Lehigh showed a spark was bench points (15-15), thanks to a season-best 11 in 23 minutes from junior guard Mitch Gilfillan, who made 3-of-7 treys.

Bucknell was the lone beacon on an otherwise dark day for the league. The Bison aced a post-finals exam in Ithaca, beating Cornell 59-44.

Coverage of this one is scant. Here's thebox score. Worth noting: Bucknell had a season-low 11 turnovers. Coming off a week when finals wreak havoc with practice schedules, that is impressive.

For those of you keeping score at home, the Ivy League's lead in the season series against the Patriot League now stands at 9-4 with 10 to play. Army or Navy are involved in three of those remaining 10. Two others involve Penn or Princeton.

In other words, the fat lady is warming her vocal cords.

ON TAP: One game today, Army visits Notre Dame. Do we really need to comment?

Read more!
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Friday, December 24, 2004
AU stays close for a while
Thursday, December 23, 2004
AU-Maryland on tap

Bucknell win sends message
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
.500 night for the Patriot

Niagara falls into Sojka
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Shoppers not the only busy ones
Monday, December 20, 2004
Army hangs for a half before reality takes over in South Bend
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Lange's Mids do the limbo

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