Navy downs Army in OT to win N-Star

"All in all today was about our defense in the second half and overtime," said Navy head coach Billy Lange. "As a coach I think the only way to win games is to play great defense and for 35 minutes we were a focused basketball team on defense."

ANNAPOLIS, Md.-Senior team captain Matt Fannin's eight-foot bank shot with 34 seconds remaining gave Navy (9-12, 2-6) the lead for good, while sophomore Greg Sprink and sophomore Corey Johnson knocked down clutch free throws down the stretch as the Mids rallied for a thrilling 67-62 overtime victory over Army (5-16, 1-8 in the Patriot League) Sunday afternoon at West Point.  The win gives Navy the N-Star for the 13th time in the last 14 years in men's basketball.

Sprink led the Mids with 23 points and four rebounds while playing outstanding defense on Army's leading scorer, Jarrell Brown.  Fannin added 10 points and seven rebounds in 34 gutty minutes.

"This was a great college basketball game. I think both programs are improving, but this game in particular gives us some confidence," said Navy head coach Billy Lange.  "It was a well played game outside of the shooting percentages.  This game means so much to both institutions.  It puts a lot of pressure on you as a coach and the players, but it's my responsibility to make sure we don't overcomplicate this game.  I thought we had to be fearless coming in and I thought we played that way."

Fannin, who is playing with a torn ACL in his left knee and left the game in the first half when his knee gave out on him, struggled all game with his shot, as he was unable to elevate with his injured leg.  He had made just one of his previous nine attempts before knocking down the tough jumper off glass to give the Mids the lead for good.

"When Matt got the ball I knew what move he was going to make and I knew he would make it," said Lange.

"I was making good moves all day, I just wasn't finishing," said Fannin.  "I wanted the ball at the end.  Coach Lange had confidence in me all game even though I wasn't finishing.  In the huddle the plan was to go inside and if they doubled me I would kick it back out. I had complete confidence that I would make it."

Navy appeared to be on the ropes with 2:16 left in regulation when Army's Matt Bell drove the lane and made a lay-up while being fouled by Johnson.  The bucket gave Army a 56-52 lead.  Bell, who finished with a team-high 18 points, though would give the Mids some life when he had a rare miss from the free throw line.

Freshman Bryce Brigham, who played the best all-around game of his young career, made one of two free throws to pull Navy to within three on the Mids next possession and then, after a Cory Sinning miss on the other end, Sprink pulled up on a controlled break and nailed a 23-footer off an assist from Johnson to tie the game at 56 with 1:32 left in regulation.  It was Sprink's third three-point field goal of the game.

On Army's next possession senior Leonard Green stole the ball off an errant Brown pass giving the Mids a chance to win the game.

Johnson missed a wide open three-pointer from the corner off a great kick out feed from Fannin, but when Army knocked the rebound out of bounds with 35 seconds left the Mids had a chance to run the clock down and take the final shot. 

Freshman Adam Teague, however, had other ideas and took an ill-advised three-point shot from the corner off the in-bounds pass.  Teague was bailed out by a Fannin offensive rebound and Navy ran the clock down to 14 seconds before calling a timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Navy threw the ball inside to Fannin, who kicked it out to a wide-open Teague at the top of the key.   Teague's three-point attempt rimmed out and the two teams went to overtime.

"We had a great look at the end of regulation," said Lange.  "We are a young team that needs to learn how to make those shots."

After a Fannin free throw to start overtime, Army scored four quick points to take a 60-57 lead with 3:04 remaining.  Sprink would answer with his fourth three-point field goal of the game to tie the score at 60 with 2:41 remaining.

Army's Corban Bates made one of two free throws to put the Black Knights back up by one with 2:13 left and Johnson made one of two free throws for Navy to tie the game at 61 with 1:05 remaining. 

Army would work the clock down to 54 seconds before Bates drove the lane and was fouled by Green, his fifth of the game.  Once again Bates would make just one of two free throws, setting up Fannin's game-winning shot.

Army still had a chance to regain the lead, but Bates missed a jumper and Sprink grabbed the rebound and was fouled.  Sprink knocked down both free throw and, after a Matt Bell turnover, Johnson made both his free throws to seal the win. 

It was the first overtime game in the Army-Navy series since 1986 when a David Robinson-led Navy team that would eventually advance to the Elite Eight, hung on for a 55-52 win at West Point.

The Mids made just 22 of their 65 shot attempts from the floor (34 percent), including nine of 31 from three-point range (29 percent).  Navy did make 14 of 18 free throw attempts (78 percent).

The key was on the defensive end where Navy limited the Black Knights to just 19 of 53 shooting (36 percent), including a woeful two for 15 (13 percent) from behind the three-point arc.  Just two weeks ago, when Navy lost at home to Army, 80-73, Army shot 58 percent from the floor (26 of 45) and made 10 of 19 three-pointers (53 percent).

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