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Navy Pulls Away in Second Half to Run Past Lehigh, 94-83

Jan. 14, 2010

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Chris Harris led a balanced offensive attack and the Navy men's basketball scored 58 second-half points to run past Lehigh, 94-83, at a raucous Alumni Hall on Thursday night. The win improved Navy's overall record to 8-9 and kept the Mids unbeaten in Patriot League play at 2-0. Lehigh drops to 10-7 overall and 1-1 in league play.

The victory sets up an intriguing contest on Saturday night as the league's two remaining unbeatens square off in Alumni Hall as Lafayette visits Annapolis. Both teams enter Saturday night's tilt with identical 2-0 Patriot League marks.

The Mids pulled away in the second half after owning a 36-33 halftime advantage. Navy shot 54.8 percent in the second half, had 11 assists on its 17 field goal attempts and made 18-of-22 free throws, most coming down the stretch, to hold on for the win. Navy led during the entire second half, and by at least four in the last six minutes.

"We played with a lot of passion and emotion in the second half and especially the last five minutes," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "We want it to be all about that. The overall feel of the game was great. We were just very solid all the way around tonight. We really moved the ball well in the second half and got lay-ups and a lot of open shots. We had a great attitude going into the contest."

The lead see-sawed between one and nine for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Lehigh still trailed by four at 74-70 with 4:14 to play, when Chris Harris kick-started a 9-0 run with a three-pointer with 3:52 to play. With Navy holding a seven-point lead at 77-70, Harris then took a charge on the ensuing defensive possession, giving the Mids a key stop it needed.

The Midshipmen then paraded to the free throw line in the last 2:39, as their last 15 points came from the charity stripe as Navy converted 15-of-18 free throws down the stretch.

"I just think we are playing harder offensively, and have had much better ball movement and sharing the last five games," said Lange. Navy has shot 45.8 percent in the last five games, including 40.5 percent from three-point range. "Guys are just getting pretty comfortable in their roles."

Lange got contributions up and down his lineup. Both Greg Brown and Jeremy Wilson recorded career highs with 14 points each. Brown hit a pair of big three-pointers in the second half, while Wilson went 6-of-6 from the field. In the last five games, Wilson is 15-of-18 from the field and has made 11 straight shots, dating back to the Bucknell game.

"I thought our big men collectively played very well. Veazey gave us good minutes in his first game back from injury. Newsome had a strong post move and Wilson really gave us strong minutes inside," said Lange. "It just goes back to their development. They are getting comfortable with what they are doing now.

"Greg Brown has never lacked confidence. We knew he can score, but he is starting to do some other things pretty well," said Lange. "He's getting aggressive and you can see his confidence grow with each game."

O.J. Avworo also had a strong game with 12 points, five assists, four rebounds, one block and one steal. He held Lehigh's star point guard, Marquis Hall, to 10 points on just 4-of-13 shooting and two assists.

"I kind of took it personal, because he is such a good player," said Avworo. "I just need to continue to be aggressive and get guys open and find them for open shots. That's my job. Ultimately, with teams guarding Chris (Harris) and Jordan (Sugars) tight on the outside, it will open up driving lanes.

"We are just focused on us and one game at a time and getting better," said Avworo. "We always had confidence in our team and we are just worried about us getting better and improving. Our focus is on us and what we need to do to be successful."

Navy jumped out early, grabbing an 10-9 lead, but Lehigh answered with a 7-0 run to grab its largest lead of the contest at 16-10. The Mids responded with an 8-0 spurt to regain the lead which it held for the remainder of the game.

For the contest, Navy shot 30-of-62 (.484) from the field, 7-of-20 (.350) from three-point range and 27-of-31 (.871) from the free throw line. Lehigh shot 26-of-69 (.377) from the field, 6-of-17 (.353) from three-point distance and was 25-of-34 (.735) from the free throw line. Navy outrebounded the Mountain Hawks, 42-39, and had 16 turnovers to Lehigh's 14.

Chris Harris led Navy with 29 points and was 14-of-14 from the free throw line, the second-most makes in school history without a miss. Wilson and Brown each had 14 points, with five and six rebounds, respectively. Avworo had 12 and Romeo Garcia had eight points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block.

Freshman sensation C.J. McCollum, who was the Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year a year ago, led Lehigh with 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Fellow classmate Gabe Knutson had 16 points and nine rebounds.

"McCollum is easily the best freshman I have seen in this league since I have been here and potentially, could be the best player this league has ever seen," said Lange. "He is very smooth and makes a lot of hard shots. He is a tough player to stop.

"You can't overplan against them, because they have four or five guys that can go for 20," said Lange. "You kind of have to try and slow down a few of them, because you can't stop them all."

Navy and Lafayette will battle at 7:00 pm in Alumni Hall in Saturday night. Tickets are available by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY or at the Alumni Hall ticket window prior to the game.




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