Jan. 15, 2011
EASTON, Pa. -- Lafayette's Tony Johnson hit a big three-pointer from the corner late in the game and an Isaiah Roberts' half-court heave at the buzzer was just off the mark, giving the Leopards a hard-fought 76-73 men's basketball victory on Saturday afternoon.
The loss drops Navy's record to 5-14 overall and 0-3 in the Patriot League. Lafayette, last year's league runner-up that returned nearly everyone from that team, improved to 7-11 overall and 2-1 in league play.
Johnson entered the game with just six three-pointers on the year, but buried his only trifecta of the game with four seconds on the shot clock and the game clock at 54 seconds to give the Leopards a 69-66 lead. Navy drew to within one at 74-73 on an Isaiah Roberts (Fr. / Pennsauken, N.J.) lay-up with three seconds left. Jared Mintz connected on both free throw attempts for a 76-73 advantage and Roberts' last-second heave had the right distance, but was off to the left handing the Mids their third Patriot League loss by eight or fewer points.
"He (Johnson) just hit a huge shot in the corner. We got decent shots and we made some of them down the stretch, but they make free throws and that was the difference," said Lange. "Not to put a hex on Lafayette, but I picked them first in the preseason poll and for us to come in and compete the way we did and show a lot of fight, is a great sign for our basketball program.
"I am once again very proud of our guys. I thought we gave a great effort," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "I love coming to Lafayette and playing against these guys, because they are always very close games that come down to the wire. We are really close to kicking the door through, and when we do, we are going to be a force to be reckoned with."
The two teams were tied at 26 with 5:40 left to play in the first half, when Lafayette embarked on a 12-0 spanning halftime to take a 38-26 lead moments into the second half. Navy would rally, eventually tying the game at 46 on a three-point play by Roberts with 10:11 to play.
The two teams would trade leads and the Mids would grab a three-point lead at 56-53 with 7:26 to play on a Brennan Wyatt
(Fr. / Greensboro, N.C.) three-pointer. It would be Navy's last lead of the game as Lafayette regained the advantage almost immediately. O.J. Avworo
(Sr. / Houston, Texas) would tie the game at 66, before Johnson's three-pointer gave the Leopards the lead for good.
"I look at where we are headed and the things we are doing. I know we are going to be really good," said Lange. "We are rebuilding and by the end of the year, this team will be built. We are right there."
Navy shot a season-best 26-of-54 (.481) from the field, including 16-of-29 (.552) in the second half. The Mids were 9-of-24 (.375) from three-point range and just 12-of-20 (.600) from the free throw line and were guilty of 18 turnovers. The Mids did outrebound the Leopards, 36-31, its best rebounding margin of the season.
Lafayette went just 23-of-54 (.426) from the field and 8-of-26 (.308) from three-point range. The Leopards may have won the game at the free throw line, making 22-of-26 attempts (.846). Lafayette was guilty of 12 turnovers.
In three league games, opponents are shooting 53-of-61 (.869) from the free throw line.
Jordan Sugars (Jr. / Winchester, Va.) led Navy with 15 points and grabbed four rebounds. Sugars has scored in double figures in 14 straight games and has made a three-pointer in 29 straight games, dating back to last year.
Freshman J.J. Avila (Fr. / McAllen, Texas) just missed his second straight double-double with a 13-point, nine-rebound, three-assist, two-block, two-steal performance. Avila has now surpassed 200 points, coming in just 19 games, the fifth-fastest player in school history to score 200 points. In three league games, Avila is averaging 15.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg and 2.3 spg while shooting 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from three-point range. He has scored in double figures in six straight games.
Roberts was the third Mid in double figures, scoring all 13 of his career-high points in the second half. It was his second straight double-figure scoring game. Roberts added a career-high five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Navy's freshmen accounted for 37 of Navy's 73 points, 18 of Navy's 36 rebounds and eight of Navy's 11 assists while shooting 14-of-27 from the field in 98 minutes of action.
Jared Mintz led Lafayette with 20 points, while Jim Mower had 13.
Navy returns home on Wednesday night against Holy Cross for a 7:00 pm tip from Alumni Hall. Tickets are available by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY, online at www.navysports.com and at the Alumni Hall box office prior to the game.
# GO NAVY #