Saturday gave us one of the wildest finishes in the history of one of the fiercest rivalries in college basketball.
Army was down 54-29 with just under 12 minutes left in their visit to Navy. As head coach Jimmy Allen put it, “we were getting our butts spanked.” Navy had run away after leading by nine at the half, and Army had no answers.
That’s when Allen made a move that, throughout his career, he’s been steadfastly opposed to.
“I called timeout, and one of my assistants says, ‘Maybe we should just try zone for a couple possessions,'” Allen said. “We never practice playing zone. We’ve spent maybe five minutes in practice on it and played maybe10 possessions of zone all year. We had taken 13 threes at that point, so I told the guys, ‘We’re going to play 2-3, we’re going to get down the court as fast as we can, and I want to get up 35 threes before we leave here today.'”
And it worked.
“They had a couple of possessions where they didn’t attack the zone, we got going in transition, a couple guys hit some threes, some tough threes went down, Jordan Fox was on fire,” Allen said, a stream of consciousness an hour after the most unlikely win of his career. We got it to 16, then to nine, and we just kept playing fast. I’ve been on the other side of that, you get back on your heels and you’re not playing without as much confidence. We got some confidence and momentum, and made some big shots.”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Army completed the comeback. Fox finished with 22 points and a career-high five threes. He hit a go-ahead three with less than a minute left to cap the comeback. The final score was 71-68. The final run was 42-14.
On the road.
To beat Navy.
“That’s the best part,” Allen said. “We’ve struggled with them. Contrasting styles. They play slow, methodical, they’re physical. We try to play fast, and it’s just not been a good matchup for us. We had a stretch over two years [a year ago] where we lost five in a row to them.”
“It’s such a huge rivalry.”
The Black Knights also lost to the Midshipmen earlier this season in a similarly wild game. Army was down 10 points with just over 30 seconds remaining and managed to force overtime in a game they eventually lost by 16 points.
“The Navy game at out place was one of the most amazing things I’ve been a part of,” Allen said.