Jan. 13, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A 23-4 run by the Navy women's basketball team in the early part of the game gave the Midshipmen a lead over Lafayette they would not relinquish in an eventual 62-44 victory over the Leopards Sunday afternoon at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The game served as the Patriot League opener for both Navy (8-8) and Lafayette (7-9). The Mids, who had posted a 5-13 record in the opening game of their first 18 seasons as member of the league, notched a victory in their league opener for the fourth-consecutive season.
"There is always a little extra `juice' when you play in a Patriot League game," said Navy's Alix Membreno (Jr., Loxahatchee, Fla.). "I think we came out with a lot of heart. We had some tough losses, but we knew a lot of the Brigade was here. Having the momentum of the crowd was a big plus."
"Great win for us," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "It was nice to be at home in front of so many fans (2,471).
"We had to play well to get the win. I think we were really focused today."
Lafayette connected on the first points of the game when Linnel Macklin hit a three-point field goal 75 seconds into the action. It took a little more than a minute and half before Navy would score, which it did when Chloe Stapleton (So., Cary, N.C.) drilled a three-point field goal of her own to tie the game. The triple ignited the 23-4 run by the Mids that allowed them to build a 23-6 advantage with just over eight minutes left in the half.
Both teams turned the ball over on their next respective possession after Stapleton's three-point shot, then Lafayette missed a shot on its end of the court. Stapleton followed with a jumper to break what would prove to be the lone tie in the game. Another miss by the Leopards was followed by Kara Pollinger (Jr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) scoring on a layup for the Mids. Emily Homan answered with a field goal for the Leopards, then Jade Geif (Jr., Lakeville, Minn.) made 1 of 2 free throw attempts after grabbing an offensive board the next time the Mids had the ball. Lafayette missed a three-point attempt on its next trip down the court, with Pollinger drilling a three-point shot on the ensuing Navy possession to give the Mids an 11-5 lead.
The teams would tally their next points -- one for Lafayette, two for Navy -- from the free throw line. A short while later, Stapleton connected on another triple to take the Navy lead to double figures at 16-6 with a little less than 10 minutes left in the half. That began a stretch where Navy scored on four consecutive possessions -- layup by Membreno, three-point field goal by Audrey Bauer
(Jr., Lake Zurich, Ill.), jumper by Membreno -- to cap the 23-4 run by the Mids.
Counting Stapleton's triple, Navy connected on 8 of 13 shots from the field during its run, including a 3-of-5 effort from three-point land. Conversely, Lafayette misfired on 14 of its next 15 shots and turned the ball over seven times after Macklin's three pointer. Aiding Navy's run was its ability to limit the Leopards to just five offensive caroms on their 14 missed shots during this span.
Navy also held 17-point cushions twice more in the frame, with the last instance coming at 27-10 with 5:30 remaining in the half. From there, however, Lafayette closed the half on a 9-0 run that winnowed the margin down to 28-20 at intermission.
The Mids may have misfired on each of their last seven shots from the field in the first half, but connected on three of their first four shots in the second half. Neither team scored on their first respective possession of the second half, then a missed shot by Lafayette was gathered in by Geif. She missed a jumper on the other end of the floor that was corralled by Membreno. Navy made the most of its second chance as Bauer connected on a three-point shot to give Navy a 31-20 lead. Lafayette missed a shot, grabbed the rebound and turned the ball over on its next offensive possession, with Membreno scoring on a jumper to extend the Navy lead even more. The Leopards had the exact same offensive possession the next time it had the ball, and that led to Bauer hitting another triple to make the score 36-20 in favor of the Mids with 16:49 remaining in the game.
After a pair of free throws by Lafayette, Navy ran off nine of the next 11 points to build a 45-24 advantage with just over 13 minutes left on the clock. The Mids would lead by at least 15 points and by as many as 22 points over the remainder of the game.
Navy shot better in all three phases in the second half than it did in the first. The Mids improved their field goal percentage from 35.7% in the first half to 47.8% in the second half, which included an improvement of 36.4% to 50.0% in three-point shooting. Also, the Mids made 69.2% of their free throw attempts in the second half after making just 57.1% from the line in the first half. For the game, Navy made 41.2% of its field goal and three-point field goal attempts as well as 65.0% of its free throw attempts.
Defensively, the Mids limited Lafayette to 31.5% shooting from the field and 38.5% shooting from outside of the three-point arc.
"I think we were really aggressive out there (on defense)," said Membreno. "We had the desire to pressure the ball, get every loose ball, win every hustle play."
"I thought Audrey and Jade really inspired us with their defense," said Pemper. "A lot of times people inspire you with scoring, but I think we felt they were going to work really hard against (Lafayette's post players) Homan (10 points) and Danielle Fiacco (5 points), and that means a lot. They are their leading scorers."
Navy also held a 39-34 advantage on the glass against the taller Leopards. This included a 13-12 edge in offensive caroms. Navy would score 19 second chance points and limit Lafayette to just 8 such points. Navy also had a 15-4 advantage in fast break points, as well as a 19-8 lead in points off of turnovers. The Mids committed 17 turnovers in the game but forced the Leopards in 21 turnovers.
Membreno paced the Mids with 19 points on the night, which tied her career high for the most points scored against a Patriot League opponent. She was 7 of 10 from the field and 5 of 7 from the charity stripe, while also adding six rebounds, five assists and two steals in 29 minutes of playing time. Both Stapleton and Bauer were 3 of 6 from three-point range, which helped Stapleton to tally 13 points and Bauer 12. Geif was limited to just six points, but she snared a game-high nine rebounds on the afternoon.
"We had some adversity," said Pemper. "The 17 turnovers; sometimes we didn't make great decisions. Then seeing Jade be so unsuccessful is adversity for our team. But we responded. We ended the first half on a not so great run, but then we came out in the second half and got a big lead.
"Alix is one of the best players in the league, I think. She is so versatile on the offensive and defensive end, and is a really competitive kid. One of the things she is doing better lately has been playing the point at times due to an injury to our back-up point guard. She has responded real well. We see it a lot in practice, not just games, where when someone plays with Alix, they play with a lot of confidence. They know she is going to make plays and they just play better. It is a special quality in a player, and when you put the ball in her hands at the point, there is the potential for her to affect more people."
Lafayette's Jamie O'Hare matched Membreno's scoring output of 19 points. She accounted for 13 of Lafayette's 24 second-half points, while also recording five assists and three steals over her 37 minutes on the court.
Navy will now take to the road for four of its next five games. This stretch begins Wednesday with a 7 p.m. game at Holy Cross and continues on Jan. 20 with a 2:30 p.m. game at Army.