Jan. 9, 2010
LEWISBURG, Pa. -- O.J. Avworo's layup with 1:02 to play gave Navy a lead it would not relinquish and the Navy defense held tough in the final minute giving the Midshipmen a 69-67 victory over Bucknell in the Patriot League opener for both teams on Saturday night. The win improves Navy's record to 7-9 overall and 1-0 in the Patriot League. Bucknell drops to 5-12 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Navy was the lone road team to win on Saturday, the league's first day of play.
"That was a big-time play by O.J., and it was great to have someone else step up late in the game," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "It's tough to win on the road in the league, so to come away with a win tonight is a big step for this team."
The Midshipmen led for most of the game, but found themselves trailing 64-63, only the third time Navy trailed all game long, with 2:36 to play, when Romeo Garcia made a pair of huge plays. Garcia gathered an errant Bucknell pass, then trailed on the offensive end for a three-pointer with 1:48 to play for a 66-64 lead.
However, Bucknell freshman Bryson Johnson connected on a three-pointer with 1:25 left to regain a one-point Bucknell advantage.
Navy then took the final lead of the game when O.J. Avworo spun to the left block and floated a lay-up over the Bucknell defense for a 68-67 advantage with a minute left. The Navy defense then forced a turnover and gathered a late rebound with seven seconds left to preserve the lead. Chris Harris would connect on one free throw and a Darryl Shazier heave at the buzzer was off the mark and Navy held on for the two-point victory, 69-67.
"It was just another great game between two pretty good teams," said Lange. "It seems a lot of our games with them come down to the final buzzer. I thought both teams played pretty well, and I am pleased with how we played down the stretch to get the win. This was a great team effort."
Late in the game, Navy forced two huge turnovers in the final two minutes to aid the Midshipmen defense. Navy forced 16 Bucknell turnovers, resulting in 16 points for Navy.
"It's something that we pride ourselves in, and I thought we really picked up the pressure in the last five minutes," said Lange. "We were ready for anything and made some great defensive plays down the stretch."
Despite Navy's two leading scorers, Chris Harris and Jordan Sugars, combining for just 21 points, the Mids got outstanding production from its bench, scoring a season-high 25 points from their reserves.
"A lot of guys stepped up tonight for us," said Lange. "They really guarded Chris and Jordan hard, but a lot of players made big plays for us. That is something different for us from the last couple of years. We feel that we have a lot of guys that can step up and its hard for teams to really focus on one guy."
Navy controlled most of the first half, holding Bucknell without a field goal for the first six minutes of the contest and jumping out to a 10-8 lead eight minutes into the game. The Mids then embarked on an 11-4 run to take their largest lead of the game at 21-12 with 7:43 to play in the first half on a Montez Blair three-pointer.
The Bison would chip into the lead, eventually tying the contest at 34 heading into the halftime break. The game was tied despite Navy shooting 52.0 percent from the field and committing just six turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, thanks in large part to Bucknell's plus-six advantage at the free throw line.
Navy would lead by as many as six in the second half at 48-42 with 14:05 to play, but Bucknell would eventually take its first lead of the game at 54-53 with eight minutes to play, setting up the exciting finish.
Navy won for the second straight year at Sojka Pavilion, after opening the facility having lost the first seven games against Bucknell played there. The last five games between the two teams have been decided by six or fewer points, including the last four contests decided by a total of nine points.
In addition, Navy won its second straight Patriot League opener and is now 9-10 in league openers all-time. Navy, which has played Bucknell in 11 of the 19 league openers, is 6-5 against Bucknell in Patriot League lid-lifters.
Navy, which won just its second game away from Annapolis all season, shot 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the field, 44.4 percent (8-of-18) from three-point range and 64.3 percent (9-of-14) from the free throw line. Bucknell shot 43.8 percent (21-of-48) from the field, 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from three-point range and 80.0 percent (20-of-25) from the free throw line. Bucknell outrebounded the Mids, 34-23, but Navy had just 11 turnovers to Bucknell's 16.
Chris Harris, who scored in double-figures for the 16th time in 16 games this year, led Navy with 15 points. Romeo Garcia (4-of-4 FGs), Jeremy Wilson (5-of-5 FGs) and Greg Brown added 10 points each. Garcia also contributed four rebounds, two steals and drew two charges in the second half. Montez Blair had eight points, while Jordan Sugars had eight points, six rebounds and a career-high five assists, while playing all 40 minutes.
Bryson Johnson led Bucknell with 18 points, while Mike Muscala added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Navy will return home for its first Patriot League home game on Thursday night against Lehigh. The game will be aired by the CBS College Sports Network, and will tip off at 7:00 pm in Alumni Hall. Lehigh topped defending PL Champion, American, 78-67, on Saturday night. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY or at the Alumni Hall ticket windows on the day of the game.
# GO NAVY #