Navy Tops Lehigh in League Home Opener, 79-69
Jan. 16, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy ended the game on a 26-10 run, rallying from a six-point deficit with eight minutes to play to defeat Lehigh, 79-69, in front of 2,135 fans at Alumni Hall on Wednesday night. The win moves Navy's overall record to 8-9, while evening its Patriot League mark at 1-1. Lehigh falls to 7-9 overall and 0-2.
Navy's 1-1 start in Patriot League play is the first for the Navy program since 2001-02.
"I was very impressed with our attitude during the game. The team was determined to not start 0-2 in league play," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "I was very pleased with the way we responded after a tough loss and I thought Greg (Sprink) provided us with great leadership. He made a ton of hustle plays, was diving for loose balls and had great defensive intensity. The upperclassmen played like upperclassmen.
The two teams traded leads in the first half. Lehigh led 15-8 five minutes into the contest, but the Mids responded with a 13-5 run for a 21-20 advantage with 8:58 to play. After Lehigh answered with a 7-0 run of its own, the Mids pulled even at halftime, 33-33.
Navy came out of halftime with an 8-0 run, but Lehigh would answer with a 26-12 run over nine minutes to take a 59-53 lead with 8:44 to play. After a Navy timeout and inserting Clif Colbert (Grand Prairie, Texas) into the lineup, the Mids ended the contest on a 26-10 run over the final eight minutes to grab their first league win of the year.
Colbert finished the contest with nine points, seven rebounds and three steals in just 15 minutes, with seven points and five of the rebounds coming in the final eight minutes.
"He is all about the team and will do whatever it takes to help the team win," said Lange. "We knew it would be a big loss to the team when he was out with his injury and I couldn't feel better for him now that he is back. He is a big spark to this team and can do a lot of things well."
"I'll do whatever it takes to help this team and hopefully spark the team whenever I get the chance," said Colbert. "I just try to play hard every day and hope the team knows what they can expect of me."
Colbert missed almost two months with a broken wrist suffered against Texas-San Antonion on Nov. 17.
"It just feels good to get back out there and contribute," added Colbert. "We just need to take it game-by-game."
Navy was also aided in the run by sophomore Chris Harris (Mechanicsville, Va.). Harris connected on four three-pointers in the final 7:30 of the contest. He connected on three straight threes that turned a four-point deficit into a three-point lead, then nailed his fourth trey of the half with 1:40 left to push the Navy lead from four to seven at 72-65.
"He is on a tear right now and it looks like every shot he is shooting is going in," said Lange. "The good thing about the shots he made is that they came in the rhythm of the offense. Sprink made some good plays by driving and kicking. They were good plays all the way around."
Harris finished the game 5-of-7 from long distance and is now 29-of-52 (.558) in the last eight games.
Sprink led the Mids with his seventh career double-double and second in three games with 26 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal. Sprink went over 500 career rebounds in the game, making him the fourth player in school history (Vernon Butler, Kevin Sinnett and Hank Kuzma) with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists.
Harris added 17 points and three assists, while Kaleo Kina contributed 15 points and four rebounds.
Marquis Hall led Lehigh with 20 points and six assists and Zahir Carrington added 14 points and four rebounds. Bryan White recorded a doubld-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Navy shot 40.4 percent (23-of-57) from the field, including 37.9 percent (11-of-29) from long distance. The Mids went 22-of-27 from the free throw line and were guilty of 16 turnovers. Lehigh shot 42.9 percent (24-of-56) and shot 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from long distance. Lehigh, which was averaging just 12.7 turnovers per game, were guilty of 19 turnovers.
Navy outrebounded the Mountain Hawks, 40-33, and held Lehigh to just four offensive rebounds and five second-chance points.
"A big key tonight was forcing turnovers and keeping them off the glass," said Lange. "They typically do a great job of attacking the glass and taking care of the ball, and to hold them to four offensive rebounds and force 19 turnovers takes a great effort."
Navy will host league-leader Lafayette (11-6, 2-0 PL) in a key early-season battle on Saturday night, beginning at 7:00 pm in Alumni Hall. The annual Alumni Basketball game will take place at 4:00 pm and is open to the public. For ticket information, call 1-800-US4-NAVY.
# GO NAVY #