Men’s basketball will look to snap a two-game losing streak as it travels to Annapolis, Maryland to take on Navy this Friday.
The Light Blue has enjoyed over a week of rest in between its last game, a 95-71 loss to Seton Hall, and this Friday’s matchup, while the Midshipmen bested Bryant just this Tuesday. During his team’s rest period, head coach Jim Engles has attempted to correct the defensive blunders that plagued Columbia in the Seton Hall loss and in a 88-86 barn burner defeat to Hofstra two days earlier.
“We’re going to try to do some more things [on defense],” Engles said. “We haven’t been great defensively, and it really just goes back to the fundamentals.”
The Lions have attempted to diversify their defensive strategy beyond their normal half-court, man-to-man defense, as the team tried out a zone defense against Seton Hall, and featured a press defense in its strongest stretch of play against Hofstra.
On the whole, the Light Blue defense ranks just 297th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, and forces turnovers on 15.3 percent of its defensive possessions—331st in the nation, both according to kenpom.com.
Conversely, the offense has been producing at a relatively high rate, and will look to take advantage of a Navy squad that has struggled to defend ten games into its season.
Though the Midshipmen won their last contest 76-74 over Bryant, they’ve allowed opponents to shoot 57 percent from the field, which ranks 16th-worst in the nation. The team’s woes inside the arc might be explained by a lack of size, as no Midshipmen starter stands taller than 6-foot-7.
To counter a small Navy lineup, the Light Blue will likely start sophomore forward Lukas Meisner and senior forward Luke Petrasek, who are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-11 respectively. This height disparity might afford the Light Blue’s interior offense more opportunities, but Engles believes Navy’s defense—a press-heavy, man-to-man system—will make it tough for those players to find a rhythm.
“The way they [Navy] play defense, I don’t think the size difference matters,” Engles said. “They press a lot, so it’ll be hard to take advantage of just straight matchups.”
While the bigs should be a key ingredient—Petrasek leads the Light Blue in rebounds with 7.9 boards per game and ranks second in scoring behind junior guard Nate Hickman—they’re far from the only unit who will threaten Navy on Thursday. Hickman leads the team with 17.3 points per game and first-year guard Mike Smith stepped up against Seton Hall by dropping 23 points, his highest total of the campaign.
Tipoff at Navy Alumni Hall in Annapolis is set for 7 p.m.