BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Navy women's basketball team connected on 14 three-point field goals and held Lehigh to 16 total field goals in a 72-47 victory by the Midshipmen over the Mountain Hawks Wednesday night at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Mids (5-1 Patriot League, 12-9 overall) led the Mountain Hawks (2-4, 10-11) by two points at 10-8 when Navy went on an 18-2 run to build a 28-10 led with nine minutes left to play in the first half. The last six points of the Navy run came on a pair of three-point field goals by Chloe Stapleton (So., Cary, N.C.) on consecutive possessions. Lehigh made one free throw a short while later (28-11), then Stapleton was fouled while attempting a shot. She made the first attempt but missed the second. However, Jade Geif (Jr., Lakeville, Minn.) grabbed the offensive rebound and quickly flipped the ball to Stapleton who had moved beyond the three-point line. Stapleton drilled the triple to cap an unusual four-point possession and give Navy a 32-11 advantage. Those four points were the start of another 12-2 run that gave Navy a 40-13 lead with 2:37 left on the clock.
"I really think our starting five is bringing great focus to games," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "They also are bringing a confidence. We have a lot of plays, but plays are for people and you need to make plays, you need to read the defense, take a shot that is a good shot for you. I think they all are looking to do that; they are trying to be hard to guard. And that does good things for a team's execution and mental toughness. We are getting pretty good leadership. That oftentimes starts with who had the ball in her hands and I think Kara Pollinger (Jr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) is playing smart and well and Alix Membreno (Jr., Loxahatchee, Fla.) is doing well. We have some nice backcourt play and that helps us get into our stuff and helps us to not turn the ball over a lot and manage pressure and runs people make."
Lehigh would close the half by scoring the last six points of the frame, which made the score 40-19 in favor of the Mids at the break.
Navy made 8 of 13 three-point attempts (61.5%) in the first half and connected on 55.6 percent of its overall shots from the floor in the frame. Defensively, the Mids held Lehigh to seven total field goals and a 25.6-percent effort from the field in all.
Stapleton did the most damage from outside of the arc in the first 20 minutes of play. She made 4 of 6 attempts from three-point land to finish the first half with 13 points. While Stapleton sparked Navy's perimeter play that saw four Mids connect on at least one triple, Geif handled things inside as she made 4 of 5 shots from the floor and scored nine points while dishing out six assists.
After closing the first half on a 6-0 run, Lehigh began the second half by scoring the first five points of the frame. Geif put Navy's first points of the second half on the board with a layup at the 16:19 mark (42-24), but back-to-back baskets by Lehigh allowed the Mountain Hawks to slice the margin down to 42-28 with 14:50 remaining in the game.
"I liked a couple of the shots we got (during the opening stretch of the second half)," said Pemper. "Chloe had a wide open shot in that time. Our players came into that timeout kind of beating themselves up. So I told them that we just missed a couple of shots and they made them. Things got better right after that."
A three-point field goal by Audrey Bauer (Jr., Lake Zurich, Ill.) briefly stemmed the tide for the Mids, but Lehigh again made the margin 14 points at 46-32. Bauer promptly again drilled a triple, but a Kelly Peterson three pointer for Lehigh made the margin 49-35 with 12:28 remaining in the game.
Membreno answered with a field goal on one end of the floor then grabbed a defensive carom on the other end. The Mids came down the floor and saw Stapleton drill her fifth three-point field goal of the game. Those five points started another large run for Navy, with this one being a 16-3 sprint that gave Navy a 65-38 lead with just over seven minutes left to play.
Navy's 14 three-point field goals fell one short of the Navy and Patriot League record of 15, which the Mids set in the quarterfinal round of the 2010 Patriot League Tournament against Colgate. Those 14 triples came on 26 attempts, which gave the Mids a 53.8-percent effort from outside of the arc. Navy also was effective in its two-point shots as the Mids made 12 of 26 attempts (46.2%). Navy shot 50 percent (26-52) from the field in all on the night, which was boosted by the Mids being credited with 23 assists on its 26 made field goals.
"We have players who can shoot the `three,'" said Pemper. "We've been trying to find our confidence, basically. Players have been putting in the extra time over the last three weeks and I think that has paid off. When you play well and win some games, you obviously get some more confidence. Jade inside had some effectiveness, so they (Lehigh) gave her some attention and we were able to find shooters. Then there was that stretch where they (Lehigh) were in a defense where they had a hard time finding us when they were building their halfcourt defense."
Defensively, the Mids held Lehigh to 31.4-percent (16-51) shooting from the floor, which included a 4 of 12 (33.3%) night from three-point range.
"We just try to work hard (on defense)," said Pemper, "we try to play tendencies. Obviously tonight I thought rebounding was going to be really big. Lehigh has a couple of players who are really good offensive rebounders. I think our players are working really hard on defense and understanding that that is really important."
Navy held a 36-31 advantage on the glass, which gave the Mids a 16-9 lead in second chance points. The Mids turned the ball over 15 times to Lehigh's 14, but Navy tallied 25 points off turnovers while limiting the Mountain Hawks to just 11 such points.
Stapleton (10 attempts) and Bauer (8 attempts) both made six three-point shots in the game. Stapleton ended the night with 19 points and Bauer contributed 18. The Stapleton-Bauer duo was half of the number of Mids who reached double figures in the game as Geif tallied 15 points (made 6 of 10 field goal attempts) and Pollinger scored 11 points. Both Geif and Pollinger also dished out six helpers. Additionally, Stapleton accounted for half of Navy's eight steals, while Geif and Membreno each snared nine rebounds.
Lehigh's Kerry Kinek led the Mountain Hawks with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Navy, which remained in a first-place tie in the Patriot League standings with American, will close out the first half of the league campaign Saturday when the Mids play host to Bucknell in a 7 p.m. game.