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Navy Rallies Past Army in Second Half For 62-56 Victory

Jan. 23, 2010

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Chris Harris scored 30 points and the Navy men's basketball team used a 33-7 run over 14-plus minutes of the second half to rally past Army at a raucous, sold-out Alumni Hall, 62-56, on Saturday afternoon.

The victory improved Navy's overall record to 9-11 and 3-2 in the Patriot League standings, while Army falls to 12-7 and 2-3 in the Patriot League.

The Navy win also snapped a two-game losing streak and ended six years of alternating wins and losses with the Black Knights, as Navy has won the first game of the season series for the first time in the Billy Lange era.

"The best part about competing in college athletics is about playing in games like this," said Navy head coach Billy Lange, who improved to 6-5 against Army. "I thought this was a sign of maturity for our program. We really buckled down in the final 16 minutes and it was all about the players on the court. They made a decision to get back in the game and their attitude allowed us to get this win.

"I want to take nothing away from Army. They are a tremendous team," said Lange. "They deserve credit, because they just kept coming. They didn't lose the game. Our kids earned it."

Navy trailed at the halftime break, 24-19, then saw Army score the first six points of the half to take the first double-digit lead of the contest at 30-19 just 1:10 into the final 20 minutes. The two teams would trade long-balls on the next four trips and Army's Cleveland Richard would give Army a 39-25 advantage with 16:11 to play with his second three-pointer in the opening four minutes of the second half.

But Navy started to chip away, behind Chris Harris and Jordan Sugars. Sugars kick-started the long Navy run with a conventional three-point play, and the duo would score 26 of Navy's next 33 points to turn the Midshipmen deficit from 14 points (39-25) to a lead of 12 points (58-46) in a span of 14 minutes.

The 14-point deficit overcome for victory is the sixth-largest deficit overcome in school history.

"We had a lot of faith in ourselves to get back in the game. We played one possession at a time. We got it down to making it a game again, and the ball started moving better and we started to knock down shots," said Lange.

During the 14-minute stretch, the Navy defense held Army to connect on just two-of-13 field goal attempts and forced nine Black Knight turnovers. After starting the half 6-of-8 from the field, Army went just five of its next 18.

Navy would grab its largest lead of the game at 58-46 with 2:04 to play on a pair of O.J. Avworo free throws. Army would connect on a pair of desperation three-pointers in the final 20 seconds to crawl within six at 62-56 at the end of the contest.

Army opened the game by scoring the first six points of the contest, but Harris scored eight of Navy's 10 points in a 10-0 run to grab a 10-6 lead with 14:34 left in the first half. However, shortly after burying his second three of the game, Harris picked up his third foul of the game with 14:14 to play in the first half, forcing him to the sideline for the remainder of the half. Navy would manage just nine more points during the half and went the last nine-plus minutes without a field goal.

"I listened to Chris and allowed him to stay in the game after he picked up his second foul. Obviously, it wasn't a great decision," said Lange wryly. "We obviously weren't as fluid with him out of the game, but we hung in there and were within striking distance, mostly thanks to our defense."

"They (Army) do whatever they can to get in my head. Early in my career, it would have affected me, but this is my seventh game against them. I have seen a lot from them," said Harris. "I told myself that is what they were going to do, and that I couldn't feed into it. I had to stay mentally tough today. It could have affected me today with my foul issues, but my mindset was to not let anything get to me."

Harris would record his third 30-point game of the season with 30 points on 8-of-10 shooting (4-of-4 from three) and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Harris moved into ninth place on the career scoring list with 1,413 points and scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half. He is now one of seven players with four career 30-point games and one of 12 players to have three 30-point games in a season. He became just the sixth Navy player in school history to score 30 points in a game against Army.

Harris helped the Mids shoot 52.6 percent from the field in the second half, after shooting just 30.0 percent in the first half.

"We turned it up on both ends in the second half and you have to use Army's aggressiveness against them," said Lange. "They are such a good defensive team that if you go 1-on-1 against them, you don't stand a chance. We just shared the ball and moved the ball better in the second half.

"We feel we are a good team, and we know why we have lost this year. The players fixed it themselves today and that is a sign of maturity and a big step for this program," said Lange.

Navy would shoot just 16-of-39 (.410) from the field and went 6-of-15 (.400) from three-point range. The Mids used a big disparity at the free throw line, where they connected on 24-of-34 free throw attempts, while Army was just 9-of-12. Both teams had 32 rebounds, while Navy had 18 turnovers to Army's 17.

Jordan Sugars nearly recorded yet another double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with 12 of the points coming in the second half. O.J. Avworo had a sensational game with 10 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals. The trio scored 40 of Navy's 43 points in the second half.

"O.J. was phenomenal today," said Harris. "He is our leader, quarterback and motor on the floor. He is only getting better and really carried us today."

Navy will head to the nation's Capital on Wednesday night for a 7:30 pm tip-off at American, which defeated Holy Cross, 71-67, on Saturday afternoon.




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