March 2, 2011
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Lehigh used a 20-4 run midway through the second half to build a 23-point lead, then held off a Navy rally in the final 10 minutes for an 87-75 decision in the Patriot League Quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
The loss ended Navy's season at 11-20, while Lehigh improved to 16-14 with the victory and will travel to top-seeded Bucknell on Sunday night after the Bison topped Army, 78-51.
The Mids trailed by four at halftime, 33-29, but like so many times this season, the Mids went through a long drought on the offensive end helping Lehigh take its big lead. Navy would whittle the lead to 10 with 2:25 to play, but could get no closer down the stretch.
During Lehigh's 20-4 run that spanned four minutes and four seconds, Navy went 1-of-6 with two turnovers. In the same span, Lehigh went 7-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Navy trailed 67-45 with 7:32 left, but went on a 9-0 run to cut the margin to 67-54 with 5:55 to play. Lehigh would use a quick 7-2 spurt to push the lead back to 74-56 with 3:54 left, but once again, Navy fought back, trimming the Lehigh lead to 76-66 with 2:25 to play. Navy then had a shot to grab a rebound off a front end of a Lehigh missed one-and-one, but two Navy players knocked it out-of-bounds and Lehigh ended the game by making 11-of-16 free throws in the final 2:02 of the contest for the final margin.
Lehigh's last 14 points of the game came from the free throw line and the Mountain Hawks went 20-of-27 from the charity stripe in the second half.
"We had good looks, but they just didn't fall. It wasn't just that drought, but we had one in the first half. It is something that we have had to overcome all season long. When your offense isn't scoring, your defense is scrambling and forced to take chances. We had to do that tonight, which really helped their run," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "We have fought that problem all season long. You just can't turn that on and off because it's the playoffs. We were obviously hoping the droughts didn't come tonight, but unfortunately, they did."
Lehigh led by as many as 10 in the first half at 26-16, when the Midshipmen used a 13-3 run to tie the game at 29. In the final minute of the first half, Lehigh scored on an offensive rebound to take a 31-29 lead and Navy had a shot clock violation with 3.2 seconds left giving Lehigh the ball. The Mountain Hawks threw a full-court baseball pass that was deflected twice, was then grabbed by Jordan Hamilton who missed a 12-foot jumper. The rebound was grabbed by C.J. McCollum, who tipped in the shot just before the buzzer for a four-point Lehigh advantage at halftime.
The loss ended the career of seniors O.J. Avworo (Houston, Texas), Greg Brown (Waldorf, Md.), Romeo Garcia (Cypress, Texas) and Mark Veazey (Lilburn, Ga.). The quartet combined for 43 points in the loss tonight.
"In that locker room are 13 of the greatest guys that a coach could ever ask for.That basketball team in there is the most-rewarding experience I have ever had as a coach," said Lange.
Navy shot 21-of-56 (.375) from the field, 7-of-25 (.280) from three-point range and 26-of-33 (.788) from the free throw line. The Mids were outrebounded, 40-31, and had 16 turnovers to Lehigh's 14.
Lehigh shot 27-of-55 (.491) from the field, including 15-of-25 (.600) in the second half. The Mountain Hawks were 6-of-15 (.400) from three-point range and 27-of-38 (.711) from the free throw line.
Brown led Navy with 17 points. He was joined in double figures by Avworo with 14 points, Jordan Sugars (Jr. / Winchester, Va.) with 11 and Mark Veazey with 10. Freshman J.J. Avila (McAllen, Texas) had nine points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals, while classmate Isaiah Roberts (Pennsauken, N.J.) added nine points.
McCollum led Lehigh with 25 points, while Jordan Hamilton had 15 points off the bench.
Navy will return two starters and four other players that played at least 25 games for the 2011-12 season.
# GO NAVY #