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Four Mile Brewing Pre Game: vs. Army West Point (5-5)

By: Ian Nolan

Quickly: The Bonnies have a quick turnaround after downing Niagara on Saturday afternoon, and face a 5-5 Army team on Monday night in the Reilly Center. The Bonnies bounced back in Buffalo and used 23 points from Jay Adams to earn yet another win over the Purple Eagles. Sophomore Nelson Kaputo returned to action, and will play in his first home game of the year tomorrow. The students will be on break, so the crowd will be subdued from now until they return in mid January. SBU will likely be more heavily favored in this game than any one this season, save the St. Francis opener. SBU needs to win these next to non-conference games to get to 9-3, a record that pegged them to have during our pre season predictions. Obviously these are “must win” games vs. inferior clubs at home. 

The Skinny on Army: A year ago Army won 19 games and put together a very solid season under coach Zack Spiker. Unfortunately, Spiker used that 19 win season to bolt to Philadelphia and Drexel and no team in the country likely lost more than the Black Knights. Army graduated seven, count them seven seniors, including a 2,000 point scorer and three of 1,000 point scorers while promoting assistant coach Jimmy Allen to head coach. 

So, the Army team that you will see tomorrow night in no way, shape or form, resembles the club that won 19 games a year ago. This is an incredibly young and inexperienced team that sports a roster of faces that simply were not called on to do much of anything a year ago. They have battled this season to a .500 record and played fairly well in their recent road loss to a good Monmouth team. 

Leading them through ten games this season is sophomore point guard Jordan Fox. Fox scored over 1,800 in high school and was second on the team in assists a year ago while playing 12 minutes a game. This season he’s playing 31 minutes a game, averaging 12.4 points, four assists and shooting 48% from the field. He’s their floor general and leader despite being only a sophomore.

Matthew Wilson, a 6-9 freshman, is the Black Knight starting center. Wilson averaged over 20 points a game in high school and is averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds and shooting a ridiculous 69% from the floor. He really struggles at the line however, shooting a poor 48%. Army doesn’t do much scoring inside, but when they do it’s usually Wilson.

From there, Army gets scoring of between seven and nine points a game from four different players. This team plays a ton of guys, as 11 players get more than eight minutes of work per contest. Expect more of the same tomorrow night as Army looks to keep their guys fresh in the RC vs. a Bonas team that should be a bit tired after just a 48 resting period. 

Army runs an uptempo style offense, and currently has the 32nd shortest possessions in the country. They do not get to the foul line often, and don’t pose any threats as far as rim protectors are concerned, ranking 332nd in block percentage. Army scores a huge percentage of their buckets via the three point shot, 37.7%, which ranks 38th nationally. So expect a lot of three point attempts, and not much inside-out work tomorrow evening from this young squad. They rank 77th in three point shooting (37.5%) so they can stroke a bit from deep making that a story-line worth watching.

The Stats and Roster:

Three Things to Watch:

  • The Energy Level. SBU now gets into the portion of their schedule where they must do without the student section to provide them energy when they need it the most. With the Wolfpack gone, the team needs to bring their own energy to the floor and do so early in this contest. Army is not a good team and they’re going on the road to a tough place to play with a very green roster. Still, if there’s any group of guys who won’t be fazed by a tough bus ride and some snow in Olean, it’s Army. Jay Adams and company need to bring it from the tip and control this game by halftime. We’ve all seen what happens in these games when you let a team hang around. Think about the start to the Niagara game…we want the opposite here. Army may be inexperienced, but they won’t be intimated of anything, that I can assure you.
  • Defending the Three. We arrive to this key once again. It’s not so much that Army is a fantastic three point shooting team, it’s that they rely on it so much and take so many shots from the outside. With the great shooting back drop of the RC and lack of fans there, this could be one of those games a visiting team really connects from distance. We know SBU has struggled to defend it this season (277th nationally), but they did hold Niagara to 5-17 shooting and a good shooting Hofstra team to 8-28. The 13 threes allowed to UNCW obviously cost them that game…Let’s see if we can make it 3/4 games with good perimeter defense.
  • Idris Taqqee’s Play. Listen, I’m not here to beat down the kid, because Idris is a fantastic kid and a leader on this team. Let’s get that out of the way. But, he’s really not playing well through ten games and as a junior captain on the team, he needs to improve. Taqqee’s offensive rating is 7 points lower this year than last year. He is shooting 2-15 from three. He’s just 44% from the field, turning it over almost twice as much, and on most nights he’s a total non-factor offensively. His two made three pointers both came in the Pepperdine game, nearly a full month ago. In five games he’s made two or less field goals…His strongest supporters will say he’s not out there to score. Sure, he’s known for his defense, offensive rebounding and grit. We get that. But, as Adams and Mobley are pressured more and more, and as the big men start to get tested by A10 forwards…this team needs another veteran to help out scoring the ball a bit. Taqqee has to be that guy. As a junior, and captain of the team, he’s got to play better basketball heading into conference play where we will need his scoring. 

Three Things That Will Happen:

1. Army will attempt 24+ three pointers

2. Denzel Gregg will score 17+ points and haul in 10+ rebounds.

3. SBU will knock down eight or more three pointers.

Twitter-Length Closing Take: Bonas struggles a bit out of the gate but uses their old formula once again to pull away for a double digit lead: Jay Adams. Gregg also shines in this win against an experienced front court. 

Prediction: SBU 83, Army 70

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.