Jan. 22, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
Mackey McKnight's game-winning layup with 1.1 seconds left in overtime gave visiting Lehigh (9-11, 2-5 PL) a 68-66 win over Navy (7-11, 2-5 PL) on Wednesday evening at Alumni Hall. McKnight also forced overtime with a game-tying layup with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Navy had its chances in both regulation and overtime but could not get the defensive stops or the timely buckets, while also hurting itself by its own miscues.
"I thought we had the game in hand but we just made some foolish plays down the stretch," head coach Ed DeChellis said. "This team is very close to having a couple more wins in the league, but we just did some things, and it's frustrating, that are out of character for us. Our youthfulness and inexperience really showed in crunch time. We try to work in late-game situations in practice and we just haven't been very successful closing games."
Navy junior forward Worth Smith scored a career-high 26 points and made 8-of-9 free throw attempts. He scored Navy's final nine points of the second half. Smith pulled down seven rebounds, with six being on the offensive end, and also set a new career-high with five steals.
With Smith scoring seemingly at will on jumpers or at the free throw line late in the game, the Mids went back-and-forth with the Mountain Hawks over the final five minutes. Two free throws by McKnight gave Lehigh a 56-55 lead with 1:36 to go, but Smith responded with an and-one play after being fouled on a layup. His free throw put the Mids up by one.
However, McKnight would even the score at 58-58 on a scoop layup with 19 seconds left in the second period. Navy had two chances to take the lead, but couldn't connect.
Lehigh's Tim Kempton scored on the first possession of overtime and Navy would later answer with a layup by junior Brandon Venturini. After another Kempton layup, Smith hit his second three pointer of the game to give Navy a one-point lead.
Navy got the ball back but was whistled for a loose ball foul after a missed jumper and Lehigh made two free throws. Navy then carelessly turned the ball over on the inbounds pass and was forced to foul to get the ball back.
Kempton made both of the free throws to go up by three, but Navy freshman guard Zach Fong answered with a three pointer from the top of the key to tie the game with 22 seconds remaining. McKnight then ran the clock down and attacked the right side for the go-ahead layup with 1.1 seconds on the clock. Smith threw a full-court pass to Fong who got a three up before the buzzer, but the shot was blocked by Lehigh's Jesse Chuku.
Freshman guard Grant Vermeer ignited a big Navy run in the first half after going down 19-10 and suffering through a six-minute scoring drought. Vermeer opened the spurt with two free throws then scored on a fast-break layup. Vermeer then assisted on a three pointer by junior Kevin Alter and then Vermeer drilled back-to-back three pointers. Vermeer scored 10 points during a 13-0 Navy run that lasted just 2:37 and saw Navy score on five straight possessions. Navy closed the first half on a 17-4 run to take a 27-23 lead into halftime.
Highlighted by Smith's five swipes, Navy had a season-high 13 steals in the contest. The Mids also had a season-low seven turnovers. However, the Mids shot just 32 percent from the floor (22-of-68) while allowing Lehigh to shoot 50 percent (23-of-46).
Vermeer scored a season-high 13 points for Navy and had three assists. Venturini and Fong each scored 10 points.
Kempton paced Lehigh with 15 points and six rebounds after only playing two minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Stefan Cvrkalj had 14 points and hit four three pointers, all in the second half. McKnight finished with 11 points and six assists.
Navy will next host Holy Cross (10-9, 4-3 PL) on Saturday at 7:00 PM.