Navy tops AU at home for 1st time since 1987

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Navy had a brief stay in the Patriot League basement.

With Greg Sprink striking for 27 points and plebe Adam Teague supplying a career-high 19 off the bench in a 77-68 win, the Midshipmen leapfrogged past both Army and Colgate last night by beating American University at home for the first time since David Robinson was dominating the Colonial Athletic Association.

It was the first conference victory of the season for Navy (8-10, 1-4), which last beat the Eagles in Annapolis on Jan. 17, 1987, when it was playing at Halsey Field House. The outcome ended an 11-game American winning streak in their series.

Navy coach Billy Lange credited "passionate, tough defense" for Navy's second victory in the last seven games, but the gritty reappearance of captain Matt Fannin might have been as instrumental as anything.

Fannin missed four games with a damaged left knee before returning to score 18 points Saturday in a loss to Army. Six minutes into the second half last night, he went down in a heap, grimacing in pain and eventually leaving the court.

Five minutes later, Fannin returned and the Midshipmen were instantly invigorated.

"That meant everything to us," said Sprink, who was suddenly hitting three-pointers from everywhere. "I don't think we could have a better captain. His actions say it all."

"That's why we call him the chief," added Lange.

The two teams were jockeying for the lead at that point, but after American tied for the last time at 56, Fannin scored off the post to give Navy an advantage it never relinquished. Sprink followed with his seventh three-pointer of the game, the Midshipmen held the Eagles without a field goal for more than four minutes and Navy's free throws tidily iced the decision.

"We don't have that one guy like Matt Fannin," said Eagles coach Jeff Jones. "Somebody to show the courage like that, to be re-injured and come back. They fed off that."

American (6-13, 2-4) has been troubled by subpar shooting all season and slumped to 35.3 percent accuracy from the field in the second half after taking a six-point halftime edge. Except for a talented freshman point guard, Derrick Mercer (team-high 17 points), the Eagles' backcourt was off line almost all night.

"Even if they had come back to win, I feel a lot better seeing us playing with passion," said Lange. "We really responded."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

AMERICAN-Billbe 4-6 0-2 8, Joneliunas 6-8 3-3 15, Mercer 6-10 2-4 17, Ingram 4-13 0-1 8, Lekavicius 3-12 0-0 7, Eitutavicius 3-14 3-3 11, Lay 1-1 0-0 2, Nichols 0-3 0-2 0. Totals 27-67 8-15 68. NAVY-Green 0-1 0-0 0, Baldwin 0-3 0-0 0, Sprink 10-19 0-0 27, Johnson 2-5 2-3 6, Kina 0-2 3-4 3, Reed 3-5 1-1 7, Colbert 0-0 0-0 0, Hooper 1-1 0-0 3, Brigham 0-4 2-2 2, Fannin 4-6 0-1 8, Teague 3-5 11-12 19, Biles 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-53 19-23 77. Half: American, 37-31. 3-point goals: A 6-23 (Mercer 3-5, Eitutavicius 2-11, Lekavicius 1-2, Ingram 0-5); N 10-19 (Sprink 7-10, Teague 2-4, Hooper 1-1, Johnson 0-1, Kina 0-1, Brigham 0-2). Rebounds: A 39 (Billbe, Lekavicius 8); N 38 (Johnson 9). Assists: A 13 (Lekavicius, Mercer 5); N 16 (Johnson 6). Total fouls: A 21, N 18. Fouled out: Kina. A: 1,112.

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