Jan. 21, 2009
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Mark Veazey and Chris Harris scored 20 points each and Navy held Holy Cross without a three-point field goal in topping the Crusaders, 74-68, in front of 2,175 fans at Alumni Hall on Wednesday night. The win improves Navy's overall record to 14-5 and to 3-1 in the Patriot League. Holy Cross saw its three-game winning streak end, falling to 8-11 overall and 3-1 in the league.
The win allowed Navy to remain unbeaten at home (9-0), and the nine-game home winning streak is tied for the second-longest in Alumni Hall history.
"The atmosphere here has gotten phenomenal," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "The Brigade has been outstanding and you can sense an energy here. It's hard to win on the road and the atmosphere has been outstanding.
"Holy Cross is a very good basketball team and we knew coming into the game how well we were going to have to play," added Lange. "I am very proud of the way we responded after the loss to Lafayette. We have been talking a lot about where we want to get at the end of February and this was a great test for us. It couldn't have come at a better time. I learned a lot about us."
Navy won the game thanks in large part to a strong offensive attack. Despite shooting just 41.5 percent from the field, Navy recorded 16 assists on 22 made field goals, including all of its 12 made field goals in the first half. Navy also committed just two second-half turnovers.
"You could sense tonight that we were a different basketball team than we have been for the last three weeks," said Lange. "We did a great job sharing the ball tonight. I don't remember too many shots that I thought were bad shots and out of our offense. We took really good shots against one of the best defenses in the country."
Lange got a strong game on the interior from the sophomore Veazey and on the perimeter from the sophomore point guard O.J. Avworo. Veazey scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and added seven rebounds, four blocked shots, one assist and one steal in 35 minutes of action.
Avworo, meanwhile, had nine points and seven assists against just one turnover in 28 minutes of play.
"This is the first time since I have been here that we have had a legitimate point guard and then a center with legitimate size," said Lange. "Their development is going to be huge for us and they can't settle on being better than they have been. They have to want to be the best."
"I feel like I have progressed a lot, and most of it is a mindset thing. It comes down to confidence," said Veazey. "A lot of the development I need is on the defensive end and rebounding and not fouling. It was tough to watch at the end, but I knew the guys would finish it off."
Navy led virtually the entire game, jumping out to a 19-12 advantage with 11:47 to play on an Adam Teague jumper. Navy still led 27-20, before Holy Cross ran off nine straight points to take a brief two-point lead at 29-27. But the Midshipmen closed on a 8-3 run to take a 35-32 advantage at the half.
Holy Cross would cut the lead to one at 40-39 with 15:14 to play, but the Mids responded with an 8-0 run for a 48-39 cushion with 13:00 to play. Navy would push the lead to 11 at 63-52 with 6:29 to play, but Holy Cross responded with a 16-7 spurt to trim the margin to two at 70-68 with 23 seconds to play. However, Chris Harris and Kaleo Kina connected on a pair of free throws each to cap off Navy's six-point victory, 74-68.
The six-point margin was Navy's largest in a victory since defeating Penn, 76-65, way back on Dec. 5, a span of seven victories.
The Mids were outrebounded, 49-32, for the contest, and Holy Cross scored 54 of its points in the paint. The only field goal Holy Cross scored outside the lane came on an Adam May jumper with 23 seconds left in the game.
"It took me awhile to learn this as a coach, but we aren't going to out-Holy Cross, Holy Cross, if that makes sense," said Lange. "That is what they do and they get players to fit that. We have to look at who we are and what statistics matter to us. We felt if we could make things hard for their guards, maybe we could sacrifice something. I think they had to earn every single one of those 54 points.
"The response is big for me. You are good by the way you respond," said Lange. "I haven't been really pleased with the way we have been playing. We were winning games, but I have bigger expectations of what we want to do. We weren't playing with enough urgency. We have to look to the big picture. We have to be focused on getting better every day. I thought it was time to panic and start thinking about playing better, and we responded great."
Besides Harris and Veazey scoring 20 points each, Adam Teague was in double figures for the sixth straight game with 11 points. Kaleo Kina scored nine points with five assists and two steals and Clif Colbert added five points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Andrew Keister led Holy Cross with 27 points and 14 rebounds, while R.J. Evans scored 19 points with 11 rebounds. Holy Cross shot 41.8 percent from the field, but was 0-of-13 from three-point range. The Crusaders had 15 turnovers.
Navy will head to West Point on Sunday for a noon tip-off with Army in a game that will be televised nationally by ESPNU.
# GO NAVY #