The Mids reward for a first round Patriot League Tournament victory over Lafayette is a trip to Bethlehem, PA, to take on the white hot Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh, the league’s second seed, are riding a nine game winning streak that makes them the hottest team in Patriot League and one of the hottest in the country. The nine game streak is currently the third longest in the nation and the Mids will have to employ all their road game skills from this season to take down the Mountain Hawks on their own floor.
That being said here is a look forward to the three keys for the game on Thursday night:
1. Share minutes around
The biggest problem with finishing in a tie for fourth place in the league but dropping to the seventh seed was that Navy had to play on Tuesday night. While the Lehigh players were resting the Mids had a hard fought 78-70 win over Lafayette just 48 hours prior to the tip against the Mountain Hawks. That different in rest, five days versus two, means that there are going to be some Navy players with heavy legs as the game wears on. This is going to be a test of Ed DeChellis’ coaching skills as he needs to have his best players on the floor at the key times, but also find a way to get the likes of Tilman Dunbar rest throughout the game.
2. Stop the three ball
The two schools split during the regular season with each team winning on their opponent’s home court. The Mids beat Lehigh 69-64 at Stabler Arena in January, but were on the wrong end of a 77=74 score line at Alumni Hall a week ago. The major difference in the games was that in the first meeting Lehigh made 8-of-19 three-pointers, while in the return game they shot 14-of-23 from behind the arc. One player the Mids must be on top of in this regard is sophomore Kahron Ross. Ross scored 19 points in the regular season finale against Army including three three-point shots. He is now 13-of-20 from behind the arc over his last seven games and is fifth in the Patriot League in three point field goal percentage at 43.9-percent. Navy cannot afford to let Ross get open looks at the basket.
3. Offensive rebounds and points in the paint
Navy scored 84 points in the paint during the two regular season games against Lehigh and this is an area where the Mids can take advantage of their matchups. Of those 84 points, 26 came on second chance opportunities as Navy hit the boards hard and came up with a number of put back shots and tip-ins. Will Kelly is going to be an extremely important part of the Navy game plan as he goes against two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Time Kempton inside. If Kelly can play Kempton to a draw, as he has done both times so far this season, the Mids can pull of the upset.