American had plenty in its favor heading into its Patriot League men’s basketball tournament quarterfinal game against Army. Not only were the Eagles 23-3 overall against the Black Knights, including 13-0 at Bender Arena, but they also had never lost in the quarterfinal round of the league tournament.
None of those streaks were in jeopardy Wednesday night as third-seeded American had little trouble dispatching scoring-challenged Army, 57-40.
The Eagles (20-10), who advance to play No. 2 Lehigh in Saturday’s 2 p.m. semifinal, caused the third-best scoring offense in the league untold misery. For a time, the sixth-seeded Black Knights (12-18) threatened to break the tournament quarterfinal record for scoring futility of 34 points set by Lafayette in 2005.
“For such an ugly game, it was beautiful for us,” said American Coach Jeff Jones who recorded his fourth 20-win season in the past five years.
Army struggled putting the ball in the basket from the tipoff. The Black Knights missed their first six shots and went without a point more than 5½ minutes into the game. They made only four field goals in the first 20 minutes.
American, which ranks in the top 10 nationally in three-point field goal percentage, opened the game shooting the ball well from the outside. The Eagles made their first three field goals from behind the arc and went more than eight minutes into the game before they made a two-point field goal.
But after Troy Brewer sank the first shot inside the arc for the Eagles, American fell victim to the same scoring woes as Army. They didn’t score another point for nearly 4½ minutes as the Black Knights cut the Eagles’ lead to 11-9.
Daniel Munoz finally ended the drought with a three-pointer and Army never got that close again as the Black Knights suffered through a 13-minute scoring drought that spanned the first and second halves.
“That’s the one thing Coach Jones stresses from the day we walk in, first day in October, to end of the season is defense, defense, defense,” Munoz said.
Army concentrated its defensive efforts on stopping Charles Hinkle, a first-team all-league selection and the Patriot League’s second-leading scorer. Although Hinkle finished with nine points — half his average for the season — he did other things to help his team win. He had three assists and a team-high nine rebounds.
“The way they were playing me I knew I wasn’t going to score a lot of points,” Hinkle said. “I tried to help the team the best way I could.”
Jones was pleased with how other players stepped up to fill the void left by Hinkle. Even though Munoz (11 points) was the only player to score in double figures, everyone who played contributed to the win.
“At times, I think we’ve been able to do that this year,” Jones said of his team’s balanced scoring. “I don’t know I’ve seen [the scoring] as spread out as this is . . . everybody just chipping in just a little bit. At this time of the year, you’ve just got to survive and advance and we’re real happy to have a chance to play again on Saturday.”
●BUCKNELL 87, NAVY 63: Joe Willman scored 18 points and the top-seeded Bison shot 62.7 percent from the field in the Patriot League quarterfinals in Lewisburg, Pa.
Bucknell (23-8), the defending tournament champion, made 32 of 51 shots to hand the eighth-seeded Midshipmen (3-26) their 21st consecutive defeat. Bucknell will host No. 5 seed Lafayette in the semifinals Saturday.
●LA SALLE 60, GEORGE WASHINGTON 56: Jerrell Wright scored 15 points including nine straight to open the second half and the Explorers hung on at Smith Center. La Salle (19-11, 8-7 Atlantic 10 Conference), snapped a two-game losing streak. The Colonials are 10-19, 5-10.
Despite three players in double figures, George Mason could not overcome a strong start by James Madison, falling to the Dukes, 66-54, at Patriot Center.
The Patriots finished the regular season at 14-15, 8-10 in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Dukes are 23-6, 14-4.
Amber Easter led George Mason with her seventh double-double this season (18 points, 15 rebounds). The Patriots are the No. 7 seed in the CAA tournament and face No. 10 Northeastern in the opening round March 8 at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.