Dec. 10, 2010
MACON, Ga. -- Jake Gallon scored on a lay-up with 11 seconds left, and Navy's last effort with four seconds left was off the mark, as the Bears rallied for a 73-68 decision on Friday night. The loss drops Navy to 4-8 overall, while Mercer improved to 3-7 overall.
The loss was Navy's second straight in heartbreaking fashion as Coppin State scored with 6.7 seconds left on Tuesday to defeat the Midshipmen, 65-64.
"I'm proud of our effort in what really was a great college game. We had a lot of adversity with Romeo (Garcia) being out and the foul discrepancy and some other things that happened tonight," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "The guys we had on the floor tonight really battled. Now, we are in a mode were we are playing a lot of close games and have some guys in different roles. We are going to have to work on making the right decisions in those roles. The more you play in those situations, the better you will get."
Navy led 66-60 with five minutes to play, but was outscored 13-2 over the final stretch, including 7-0 in the final minute. Navy led 68-66 on a James Loupos (Fr. / Skillman, N.J.) free throw, but Gallon tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:11 left on a foul that was called on the rebound after Navy had gathered the carom and was starting to bring the ball up the court.
On the Mids' next possession, Jordan Sugars (Jr. / Winchester, Va.) had a good look at an open three, but came up short and Mercer grabbed the rebound. With 15 seconds left, Jeff Smith drove the lane and dished to Gallon for a lay-up after Smith plowed over Loupos, who had stepped in for an apparent charge, in the lane, freeing up Gallon for the open lay-up with 11 seconds left.
O.J. Avworo (Sr. / Houston, Texas) had a look at the basket with five seconds left, but his shot came up short and Mercer made three-of-four rebounds in the final 2.2 seconds for the final margin.
"We continue to put ourselves in situations where we are going to have to learn from them eventually. I think the more we are in them, the better off we will be," said Lange. "I remember in 2007-08, we played a lot of close games early and as we got into Patriot League play, especially in the second half of league play, we made all those big plays down the stretch. I understand where it is going to get to. You feel bad for our guys because they have opportunities to win games. But in the end of the day, it will pay off for us."
The game flip-flopped back and forth in the first half with Mercer taking a 35-34 halftime lead. The Bears stretched the lead to 42-36 out of halftime, but Navy responded with a 9-0 run to take a 45-42 lead with 15:25 left. The game was still tied at 47, when the Mids went on an 8-0 run for a 55-47 cushion with 12:59 left. The eight-point margin was the largest lead of the game for either team and in the last 10 minutes, the difference was never more than six points (Navy, 66-60).
In all, there were nine ties and nine lead changes in the contest.
Navy shot 24-of-52 (.462) from the field, 10-of-23 (.435) from three-point range and just 10-of-17 (.588) from the free throw line. The Mids were guilty of 14 turnovers and were outrebounded, 35-24.
Mercer shot 26-of-48 (.542) from the field, 5-of-17 (.294) from three-point range and went just 16-of-30 (.533) from the free throw line. The Bears had 16 turnovers.
Navy was whistled for 25 fouls to Mercer's 16 and had starters Greg Brown (Sr. / Waldorf, Md.), Isaiah Roberts (Fr. / Pennsauken, N.J.) and Mark Veazey (Sr. / Lilburn, Ga.) foul out in the contest. Navy also played without Romeo Garcia (Sr. / Cypress, Texas), who sprained his ankle in practice on Thursday and was not available for the game.
Sugars led Navy with 23 points and seven assists and made 6-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc and 8-of-13 shots overall. Veazey, playing in front of almost 40 friends and family members, added 15 points and four rebounds and Greg Brown had 10 points.
The game ended a brutal 12-game stretch to start the season in which 10 of the games were on the road. The Mids have already taken four flights this year, heading to Austin, Texas, Buffalo, N.Y., Irvine, Calif., and now Macon, Ga. Navy will be off for 12 days for final exams before beginning a season-long five-game homestand on Jan. 22.
"I liked this stretch. It really built a toughness in us that we now have. We have started playing with a passion and an attitude, because it has kind of been us against the world. That's only going to help us," said Lange. "The key for our program is to keep focused on getting better. We are improving and getting better with every game."
Navy will host Elon on Dec. 22, at 7:00 pm in Alumni Hall. For ticket information, call the Naval Academy Athletic Association at 1-800-US4-NAVY.
# GO NAVY #