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Lehigh Holds Off Navy Rally, 71-61

Jan. 10, 2007

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Lehigh stormed out to a double-digit halftime lead, then held off a second-half Navy rally, handing the Midshipmen their second straight league loss, 71-61, before 1,812 fans at Alumni Hall. The loss drops Navy's record to 10-7 overall (0-2 PL), while Lehigh improves to 7-11 overall (2-0 PL).

The Mountain Hawks (7-10) had lost 11 games on the road this season and 14 regular-season road games dating to last season. They have now started their Patriot League season 2-0 for five straight seasons.

"If we play well, we have a chance to win every game that we are in," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "We had great energy and intensity tonight, but didn't play with very much intelligence and toughness. We showed signs of maturity coming back tonight, but we didn't have much defensive focus. We aren't going to be a lot of teams with our athleticism, but will win games with intelligence and toughness. We didn't have that tonight."

Lehigh took advantage of Navy's defense to shoot 46.9 percent from the field, but the Mountain Hawks connected on 10-of-20 three-point tries. Lehigh was 6-of-11 from long distance in the first half, as it turned a slim 20-17 cushion with 8:30 to play into a 34-21 halftime advantage.

After Lehigh took its biggest lead of the game at 36-21 with 19:49 to play, Navy rattled off an 18-7 run over almost eight minutes to cut the margin to 43-39 on a jumper by Kaleo Kina. The Mountain Hawks still led 51-44, but Kina hit a pair of free throws sandwiched between a Bryce Brigham and Trey Stanton three-pointer to cut the margin to 53-52 with 6:09 to play.

Lehigh responded by pushing the lead back to five at 61-56, but a Kina three trimmed the margin back to two. After a Navy defensive stop, the Mids' last chance to take the lead missed on a Corey Johnson three-pointer with 3:10 to play. Lehigh scored the game's next five points, including a three-pointer by Kyle Neptune as the shot clock was winding down to push the lead back to seven at 66-59 with 1:52 to play. Navy would get no closer than six the rest of the way as Lehigh closed the game on a 10-2 run over the final four minutes for the final margin.

The Mids struggled from the field in the first half, shooting just 30.4 percent and turning the ball over 12 times in the game's opening 20 minutes. Navy shot 50.0 percent in the second half with just four turnovers, but dug itself too deep of a hole. Navy also hurt itself at the free-throw line, converting just 11-of-18 from the stripe, including just 7-of-12 in the second half.

"It all comes down to focus, especially at the free throw line," said Lange. "We have a lot of good shooters that just need to focus more, especially at the free throw line."

Despite the loss, Lange saw signs of improvement.

"We executed tonight offensively far and away better than we have in the last few weeks, especially in the second half," said Lange. The Mids scored 37 points in the second half, the most in a half since scoring 49 in the first half against Washington (Md.), five games ago. "We are seeing progress and we are getting better. We just need to play tougher and smarter."

Navy was led by Kaleo Kina with a season-high 23 points. The Mids' high scorer for the season, Greg Sprink, had just 9 points and did not score a basket until the second half. Sprink played just six first-half minutes after picking up two fouls early in the first half. Stanton added eight points and six rebounds and Adam Teague tallied eight points and three assists. Brigham led the Mids with a career-high seven rebounds.

As a team, the Mids shot 20-of-49 (.408) from the field, including 10-of-24 (.417) from three-point land.

For Lehigh, Jose Olivero and Neptune paced the Mountain Hawks with 17 points. Marquis Hall added 13 points and seven rebounds. Phil Anderson contributed 10 points, and Bryan White added nine points and seven rebounds. The Mountain Hawks shot 23-of-49 (.469) from the field and 15-of-21 (.714) from the free throw line. Lehigh, which outrebounded Navy 34-29, committed 15 turnovers.

Navy will be in action again at Alumni Hall on Saturday at 1:00 pm against Lafayette. At 10:00 am, Navy will host its annual Alumni Game, which will be open to the public. For ticket information, call 1-800-US4-NAVY.




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