ANNAPOLIS | Navy waited nearly a half to get its starters on the floor and its offense on the move Wednesday night.
Regardless of personnel, the Midshipmen never got going.
Navy’s offense sputtered even after Chris Harris and Kaleo Kina returned from foul trouble, permitting Lehigh to surge to a 70-59 victory at Alumni Hall.
The Mids (16-8, 5-4 Patriot League) shot 33 percent in the second half - missing 16 of their last 20 shots - as they were held below 60 points for the first time since Dec. 3, 2007.
“Our ball didn’t move,” coach Billy Lange said. “We took way too many 3-point shots. You go back and take five or six 3s in a row and they don’t go in, you have to recognize that and start moving the ball a little bit better.”
Harris had 18 points for Navy, while Marquis Hall scored 18 for the Mountain Hawks (14-9, 4-5).
The loss damaged Navy’s chances of chasing down the league’s regular-season title and allowed the Mids to drift back toward the conference’s midpack cluster. With both American and Holy Cross winning Wednesday, Navy is three games out of first with five games to play.
Perhaps most frustrating was how secure Navy appeared in the first half despite its foul troubles.
Kina picked up his second foul a little more than three minutes in, and Harris sat for more than seven minutes to close out the half. Yet the Mids still led 34-26 at the break and maintained an eight-point lead for another five minutes.
However, there were already signs of trouble. Navy, usually a sound defensive team, was trading baskets rather than asserting itself defensively. At the other end, the Mids were hoisting shots early in the shot clock rather than trying to work the ball inside.
Soon, Hall hit consecutive 3-pointers to narrow the deficit to 46-44. Navy replied with missed 3-pointers and could not stop the Mountain Hawks to create some preferred transition opportunities. By the 10:48 mark, Lehigh had the lead for good.
“We definitely got out of what we wanted to do,” Harris said. “Everything was going smooth, and in the first half we were getting shots we wanted.”
But with an ideal offensive lineup, Navy sputtered. Kina didn’t score in the second half and attempted only three shots. Senior Adam Teague struggled to a season-low two points (on 1-for-9 shooting).
If nothing else, it was a reminder to the Mids of how perilously little it can afford to stray from its usual formula of steady defense and patient offense if they are to win. The defeat permitted both Lehigh and Colgate to pull within a game in the loss column rather than creating some much-needed separation in the standings only a few weeks before the conference tournament.
“This is one of those ones where I think you say, ‘All right, it happened, let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again,’ ” Lange said. “I love our guys and I think we can respond, but it is disappointing and it is disturbing.”
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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