Nov. 20, 2007
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy men's basketball team used a 22-11 run over the last 7:45 of the second half to break open a tie game and defeat Canisius, 71-60, on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall. The Mids move to 2-3 with the victory, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process. Canisius falls to 0-3 overall.
"I was proud of our effort. One consistent this year has been that we have played very hard and that was the same tonight," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "I thought our second half was the best half of basketball, at least on the defensive end, that we have played this year. We are playing some very athletic teams and having to adjust to what they do has made us better. I know playing these types of teams will help us down the road."
Navy overcome a tough night by leading scorer Greg Sprink (Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif.). Sprink finished the night with a team-best 17 points, but managed to shoot just 5-of-21 from the field with four turnovers.
"Last year, if Greg Sprink shoots 5-of-21 from the field, we lose by 30," said Lange. "This year, we are having guys step up. We have lots of players that can play and we are looking for a dynamic to be one team on the floor. We are going to adjust our lineups to give us the best chance to win."
Lange made two starting lineup changes, inserting freshman Romeo Garcia (Houston, Texas) and junior Brian Richards (Stevensville, Md.) into the starting lineup in place of Kaleo Kina (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Scott Brooks (Raleigh, N.C.).
Garcia went scoreless, but gave the Mids a defensive spark with three rebounds and a steal, while Richards tallied career highs in points (15), rebounds (6) and minutes (28). Meanwhile, Kina tallied 10 points and three steals in 15 minutes off the bench, while committing just one turnover.
"Whether I start or don't start, I am going to try and help the team in any way I can," said Richards. "The team was able to get to the hole and dish the ball off and I was able to score tonight. We did a great job communicating tonight and it really showed on the defensive end, especially in the second half."
Lange said Richards gives the squad the three things he looks for.
"We started Brian tonight, because he can rebound, he communicates well and he plays defense," said Lange. "He is helping us get good production inside and that is huge for this team. We have been guard-dominated before, but getting production inside will only help us get better."
Canisius led by as many as six in the first half at 32-26 with just over four minutes left, before Navy closed the half on a 7-0 run to take a 33-32 halftime lead. Navy led at the break, thanks in large part to Canisius' 17 turnovers and despite the Golden Griffins shooting 56.5 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
Navy would open up a lead in the second half, before Canisius tied it one last time at 49. However, the Mids shot 7-of-11 from the field and 8-of-13 from the free throw line in the last seven minutes to take control of the game and defeat the Golden Griffins for their second win of the year, 71-60.
Navy shot just 39.1 percent from the field and was just 4-of-12 from the three-point line. The Mids turned the ball over 19 times and outrebounded Canisius, 42-36. Navy yanked down 16 offensive rebounds which turned into 14 second-chance points. Navy also dominated in the paint, outscoring the Golden Griffins, 40-24.
Canisius shot 45.1 percent, but committed 30 turnovers, which turned into 30 Navy points.
"We are trying to be better defensively, and we took a step up tonight," said Lange. "In the first half, we were getting turnovers, but not stops. We got some of both in the second half and that was the key. I think the guys are getting a sense of who we are and gaining some identity."
Sprink (17), Richards (15) and Kina (10) all scored in double figures for Navy, while freshman Mark Veazey (Lilburn, Ga.) scored eight points with seven rebounds and two blocks. Derek Young (Seat Pleasant, Md.) and Chris Harris (Mechanicsville, Va.) combined for 16 points and six assists at the point guard spot.
Navy's bench continues to produce, scoring 29 points on 12-of-28 shooting with 19 rebounds and six steals in 89 minutes. Meanwhile, Navy's inside trio of Richards, Veazey and Ben Biles (Cramerton, N.C.) scored 25 points with 17 rebounds in 55 minutes.
"That is huge from the center spot for us," said Lange. "Our offense took a major hit with the loss to Clif Colbert, and guys are going to have to step up for us. The five-spot did that tonight. They are going to continue to get better."
Frank Turner led Canisius with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Tomas Vazquez-Simmons scored seven points with eight rebounds and eight blocks. The eight blocked shots are the third most ever by a Navy opponent.
Navy will head to Philadelphia for the Philly Hoop Group Classic finals. The Mids will battle Big East member Seton Hall on Friday, beginning at 7:00 pm at the Palestra. Navy will then play either Penn or Virginia at either 7 or 9:00 pm on Saturday night.
# GO NAVY #