Jan. 2, 2008
Box Score |
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy's four-guard lineup of Kaleo Kina, Chris Harris, Greg Sprink and Romeo Garcia combined for 70 points and the Mids shot a season-best 55.6 percent from the field in cruising past NJIT, 84-55, on Wednesday night. The win, which was Navy's third in a row, improved the Mids to 6-8 overall, while NJIT drops to 0-16.
Navy, which struggled from the field for most of November, has clicked on the offensive end in the last month. Navy shot at least 49.0 percent in its fourth straight game and for the fifth time in six games, a stretch in which Navy is 4-2. In addition, the Mids scored at least 84 points for the third straight game for the first time since Jan. 31 - Feb. 8, 1998.
"We are continuing to play better and learning how to play with each other. The guys are getting comfortable with each other and understanding how everyone plays," said Navy head coach Billy Lange, who coached his 100th game at Navy in the victory. "We have some deficiencies that we know we need to work on, but this group as a whole is responding with a positive attitude and it has made a difference."
Navy led by two early on at 14-12, but soon stretched the lead to double figures at 28-17 with 8:42 to play on a Kina three-pointer. The lead didn't dip below nine for the rest of the half, with Navy surging to a 45-31 halftime lead.
The Mids led by 14 at the break, despite committing 11 turnovers and NJIT's Nesho Milosevic controlling the inside for 19 points. Milosevic shot 7-of-8 from the field in the first 20 minutes, but the rest of the Highlanders went 5-of-19 for just 12 points.
Lange, however, insists that the Mids don't aim to stop just one player.
"Milosevic had a strong first half, but our defense isn't controlled to stop just one player. We look to stop the whole team," said Lange. "If a player goes for 19 of their team's 31 points, I feel we did a pretty good on the other four guys on the floor.
"We didn't make any adjustments on Milosevic in the second half. We just played with more defensive focus and worked harder," said Lange.
Milosevic scored just six points in the second half, thanks in large part to the defensive play of Garcia. Garcia, a 6-4 freshman who was six inches shorter than Milosevic, limited his touches in the paint as the Highlander center managed just three shots in the final 20 minutes.
"Romeo (Garcia) had a fantastic game tonight," said Lange. "He just brings so much energy, focus and intensity to the floor. He was working very hard in there and others fed off that."
Navy quickly expanded its lead in the second half, leading by at least 14 points for the final 10 minutes. The final score of 84-55 was Navy's largest win over a Division I opponent since beating Mount St. Mary's, 95-54, on Dec. 30, 2001.
The Navy defense held NJIT to just 24 second-half points and a season-low 55 points, while forcing 23 Highlander turnovers. NJIT shot just 35.7 percent in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Navy offense is on a red-hot tear of its own. In the last six games, the Mids are shooting 48.0 percent (165-of-344), including 40.9 percent (61-of-149) from three-point range. The result has been wins in four of the last six games.
"I think we were a little unlucky in the first few games with our shots. We were taking some bad shots and missing some open ones," said Lange. "In the last six games, we haven't been fouling as much, so we have been in a better offensive flow. Chris Harris has been getting more comfortable at the point and the result is getting better looks. We are shooting the ball better obviously, but feel we can still get better looks."
Kina led the Mids with 23 points, his third straight 20-point performance. Sprink added 19 points in just 23 minutes, sitting out the final 10 minutes with four fouls. Harris added 18 points, while Garcia had 10. With Garcia's double-digit effort, Lange has now had 10 players record double-digit scoring games this season.
Harris continues to sizzle from the outside, converting on five-of-six three-point tries. In his last five games, Harris is 19-of-36 (.528) from beyond the arc.
"I'm just feeling good about my shot, but it can always get better," said Harris. "We are just getting a lot of reps in practice and we are starting to get results. Our offensive chemistry has come a long way and we are figuring out what Coach (Lange) wants. We are figuring out each other on the floor."
The Mids outrebounded NJIT, 33-29, and finished with 18 turnovers. Kina led the Mids with six rebounds and four assists. Harris totaled five steals, while Garcia blocked two shots.
The Mids will host Longwood at Alumni Hall in their final non-conference contest of the season, on Saturday night. The women host Ohio University at 5:00 pm, and the men's game with Longwood will follow at 7:00 pm. For ticket information, call 1-800-US4-NAVY.
# GO NAVY #