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Navy Tops Holy Cross in Alumni Hall Thriller, 83-80

O.J. Avworo's 13 assists are the most by a Navy player in a Patriot League game as well as in Alumni Hall.

O.J. Avworo's 13 assists are the most by a Navy player in a Patriot League game as well as in Alumni Hall.

Feb. 17, 2010

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Chris Harris hit a fade-away 15-footer with 11 seconds left as the shot clock was winding down to lift Navy to an 83-80 decision over Holy Cross on Wednesday night in Alumni Hall. The win improves Navy's record to 13-13 overall and 7-4 in the Patriot League. Holy Cross falls to 7-19 overall and 4-7 in the league standings.

The win allowed Navy to remain one game behind league-leading Lehigh (8-3 PL) in the Patriot League standings. The Mountain Hawks rallied for a 91-81 win at Colgate on Wednesday. Navy is also tied with Bucknell at 7-4, who defeated Lafayette on Wednesday.

"This time of year, it's important just to squeeze out victories no matter how you can get them," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "It's important to keep the momentum going in a positive direction. The good thing is that we have time to keep getting better. I think we can get a lot better still."

Navy trailed 76-73 with 3:18 to play when Navy connected on three straight free throws, the last by freshman Alex Newsome with 2:37 left, to tie the game at 76. After Holy Cross' Mike Cavataio connected on a jumper to give the Crusaders a two-point lead with 2:15 left, Jordan Sugars buried a big three and Newsome found O.J. Avworo on a beautiful backdoor cut for an 81-78 lead with 1:00 left. Holy Cross narrowed the lead to one at 81-80, before Harris drilled his jumper with one second left on the shot clock.

Holy Cross' Devin Brown got off a tough, contested three-pointer with three seconds left that was off the mark and Navy held on for the third-point win, the Mids' third in a row at Alumni Hall over the Crusaders.

The Midshipmen got a great second-half effort from Avworo, who tallied 10 points and eight assists in the second half, helping the Midshipmen overcome just 19 minutes from Chris Harris and a two-point halftime deficit.

"I thought to myself late in the game that this game was the exact same as the one we played against them up there," said Avworo, in reference to a 79-60 Holy Cross win on Jan. 20. "We didn't want a repeat. We were determined to not let that happen."

Avworo scored 14 points with 13 assists for his fourth double-digit assist game in the last five outings, and his third double-double. Avworo is averaging 14.0 points per game and 9.2 assists per game in the last five contests. The 13 assists were the most for a Navy player since Erik Harris had 14 in the 1991 season, and the most for a Navy player ever in a Patriot League game.

"My job as a point guard is to make the defense make a decision," said Avworo. "Either they collapse on our drives and we kick it out to an open shooter and we go to the rim and make a lay-up. When I am aggressive, it kind of forces the defense to pick its poison."

"O.J. knew we needed this one tonight and he really willed this team to win," said Lange. "I don't know what else to say about O.J. In his role right now, he is playing as well as anyone in this league, and in his role, there is no one better. It is a blessing to coach him, and I am not sure what else you would want in that position. His hard work, dedication, focus and communication skills are motivating and infectious this year."

The Mids won despite getting just 19 minutes from Chris Harris, who played just 10 minutes in the first half and nine in the second half, due to foul issues. Harris would finish the game with 21 points, moving past John Clune into sixth place on the career scoring list with 1,563 points. Harris finished 7-of-12 from the field, 4-of-9 from three-point range and dished out three assists with three steals in limited action.

Lange got outstanding contributions off the bench from Greg Brown, who scored 10 points with a team-best five rebounds. Freshman Alex Newsome had a career-best nine minutes, connecting on five-of-six free throws, in 15 minutes.

"It was big to get that production from our bench, especially with Chris having foul trouble," said Lange. "It really creates confidence for the guys. I am just mad at Chris for putting us in that position. It's just big for us, and we are going to have to have guys step up for us down the stretch run."

The game was tight for a majority of the first half, with the largest lead for either team being six by Holy Cross, 35-29, with 2:10 left, but Navy, which started the game 1-of-11 from three-point range, buried back-to-back three-pointers late in the half to cut the margin to two.

The two teams traded baskets for the first part of the second half, with Navy taking its first lead of the half at 49-46 on a Jordan Sugars' three-point play. Navy still led 58-56, when it went on a quick 6-0 run to grab its largest lead of the game at 64-56.

However, Holy Cross answered with a 16-2 run to grab a 72-66 lead with 5:40 left. The Mids chipped into the lead, eventually tying the game at 76 with 2:37 left.

Navy would shoot 47.5 percent (29-of-61), but shot 56.7 percent (17-of-30) in the second half. Navy made 33.3 percent (9-of-27) from three-point range, but after starting 1-of-11, went 8-of-16 in the game's final 23 minutes. The Mids connected on 80.0 percent (16-of-20) from the free throw line. Navy was guilty of a season-low eight turnovers and had 21 assists.

Holy Cross shot 48.3 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from three-point range and 68.0 percent from the free throw line. The Crusaders committed 15 turnovers, but outrebounded the Mids, 44-26.

Navy had 26 points off turnovers to just six for Holy Cross, and despite being outrebounded on the offensive glass, 17-9, was outscored just 20-15 in second-chance points.

Jordan Sugars added 21 points and four rebounds for Navy, while Devin Brown had 23 points and Andrew Keister had 22 points and 14 rebounds for Holy Cross.

Navy hits the road for its annual Star Game against Army on Saturday, tipping off at 2:00 pm in Christl Arena in West Point, N.Y. The game will be aired by the CBS College Sports Network and Pete Medhurst will handle the Navy radio call on WNAV (1430 AM), beginning at 1:45 pm.

NOTEWORTHY
Chris Harris moved into sixth place on the school's career scoring list (1,563 points) ... he has scored in double figures in all 26 games this year ... he has 15 efforts of 20 or more points, including three straight and eight in league play ... Harris moved into third place on the school's single-season three-pointers made list and now owns the top three single-season spots (91 in 2008, 85 in 2009, 79 in 2010).
Jordan Sugars tallied his 19 double-figure scoring game of the year and seventh 20-point of the season ... his four three-pointers give him 67 this year, good for seventh on the single-season list ... Sugars now needs 16 rebounds to become the sixth player in school history with 400 points and 225 rebounds in a season.
O.J. Avworo recorded his fifth double-figure assists game this year and third double-double with 14 points and 13 assists ... Avworo's 13 assists are the most by a Navy player in a Patriot League game in school history, as well as the most for Navy player in Alumni Hall history ... Avworo is now averaging 10.4 ppg and 7.1 apg in league play ... Avworo's 148 assists this year are the 10th most for a Navy player in school history and his 257 career assists rank 10th at Navy ... he is now averaging 6.0 apg overall this year, taking over the Patriot League lead in assists per game.
• Navy has now defeated Holy Cross at home for the third straight season for the first time since 1998-00 ... the Mids are 10-3 at Alumni Hall, giving Navy 10 wins at Alumni Hall for the second straight year and 10th time overall ... Navy has won nine of its last 10 home games.
• Navy has won four of its last five games and five of its last seven games ... a win over Army will move Navy above .500 for the first time this season.

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