Dec. 22, 2008
VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Junior guard Chris Harris scored a career-high 30 points, but it wasn't enough as No. 18-ranked Villanova pulled away late for a hard-fought 78-68 victory over the visiting Midshipmen. The loss was Navy's second in a row and drops the Mids to 8-4 overall, while Villanova improves to 11-1 overall.
The game was the second for Navy head coach Billy Lange against his former boss and mentor, Jay Wright. In addition to tonight's setback, the Mids dropped a 70-61 decision to the Wildcats in the 2006-07 season.
Navy was in both games right until the final minute.
"It's always great to be back in the Pavilion. Just kind of wish it wasn't against Jay and his well-coached basketball team," said Lange. "I am proud of our guys' effort. We came in here hoping, thinking, expecting and believing we could win. We played against a good team that doesn't beat itself. We're disappointed with the loss. There are no moral victories, but I am pleased with the progress we are making."
The Mids started slow, but rode the hot shooting of Harris to stay in the game. The Wildcats jumped to a 13-3 advantage just three minutes into the game, but Harris scored Navy's first 12 points on four three-pointers to stem the Wildcats' start and cut the lead to 17-12 with 14 minutes left.
The Mids would continue their run, trimming the margin to 29-26 on Harris' sixth three-pointer of the first half, but the Wildcats answered with a 8-2 run over the last four minutes to grab a 37-28 lead at the half.
Harris scored 18 of Navy's 28 points in the first half, making 6-of-7 three-pointers.
"We needed it from Chris, because I felt O.J. Avworo, who played a great second half, didn't have the energy at the beginning of the game. Chris got us going and stayed going," said Lange. "He is a great player. He plays with a lot of confidence. I don't think he realized what he was doing in front of 6,500 people and one of the best teams in the country. He's a streaky player, but he's confident. If he doesn't hit his first couple shots, he is going to keep shooting and we want him to do that. He's a good player for us."
The lead would hover between six and 11 points for the first 12 minutes of the second half, before the Mids made one last push. Trailing 61-51 with 8:11 left, the Mids would go on a 13-6 run to cut the margin to 67-64 with 2:38 to play on a Kaleo Kina
free throw. The Mids would have their chances to cut into the lead further, but missed three free throws in the last four minutes to halt Navy scoring threats.
Villanova's last 11 points came from the free throw line as the Wildcats closed the game on an 11-4 spurt for the final margin.
Villanova made the adjustment in the second half to rush the Mids off the three-point line after eight of Navy's 10 field goals in the first half were three-pointers. In the second half, Navy got to the free throw line 18 times.
"They did a good job in the second half of getting us off the three-point line, so we made the adjustment to take the ball to the hole and get fouled," said Lange. "It's hard to beat them on every play. They did a good job rotating on us."
Harris connected on eight of Navy's 14 three-pointers and went 9-of-15 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line for his 30 points. His eight three-pointers were the third most in a game in school history and he now has four career games of seven or more three-pointers. In addition, he moved into third place on the school's career three-pointers made list with 155.
Kina added 15 points and a team-best eight rebounds with three assists. Avworo had seven assists, while Jordan Sugars gave the Mids good minutes off the bench with five points, seven rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes.
Navy shot 37.0 percent (20-of-54) from the field, but went 14-of-28 from three-point range. The Mids shot 14-of-18 (.778) from the free throw line and had 18 turnovers.
Villanova was paced by Dante Cunningham with 24 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 10 rebounds, while Scottie Reynolds had 23 points. The Wildcats shot 40.9 percent (27-of-66) from the field, but was just 5-of-21 (.238) from the three-point line. Villanova shot just 36.4 percent (12-of-33) from the field in the second half. The Wildcats were guilty of nine turnovers and outrebounded the Mids, 43-34.
Navy will return home for the first time in 28 days as it will wrap up the 2008 portion of its schedule with a Dec. 30 contest against Longwood. The game will tip off at 7:00 pm in Alumni Hall.
# GO NAVY #