It was a tale of two halves as the Navy Midshipmen (1-0) overcame a 13-point deficit by making 20 of 20 free throws and outrebounding the Greyhounds 20-9 in the second half to collect a 73-61 victory over Loyola (0-1) Friday night in the first round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Carnesecca Arena. The win puts Navy in the regional championship final tomorrow night against the winner of the St. John's-North Florida game. Loyola will play the loser of that game in the consolation final Saturday at 6 o'clock.
"I'm disappointed with the way we played," Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos commented. "We were up 10 and we ended up losing by 10. There were times when we weren't running an offense, but we are young and our best player from last year is gone and that was 26 points a game."
With Navy leading 13-12, Loyola pulled away for a 10-point first-half lead with 6:56 remaining by using a 15-4 run behind the hot-shooting of sophomore guard Marquis Sullivan, who had eight points in the span. The Greyhounds' lead never slipped below five for the remainder of the half and the score read 34-25 at the intermission. Sullivan accounted for 14 points while playing 13 minutes in the stanza. Greg Sprink kept Navy in the game with 13 first-half points.
The second half started with Loyola scoring the first four points to build a 38-25 lead with 17:58 remaining. The Greyhounds' advantage stayed in double figures for the game's next five minutes before the tide turned in favor of the Midshipmen.
Navy scored 13 straight points over a 2:20 span to take a 54-52 lead with 6:46 left on a layup by Corey Johnson. Two free throws from junior forward Gerald Brown retied the game at 54-54, but Navy's T.J. Topercer hit a pair of three-point baskets to build a six-point lead, an advantage the Midshipmen would not relinquish. The Greyhounds scored five straight, four from Brown, to close within one at 62-61 with 1:37 remaining, but failed to score again in the game and Navy got points from all five of its starters to build the final 12-point advantage and win going away.
All of Navy's points came from those starters, led by Sprink with 21. Topercer and Trey Stanton (game-high eight rebounds) each collected 17 and Kaleo Kina added 10. Johnson finished with eight points and seven rebounds from the guard spot. The Midshipmen made 27 of 28 free throws for the game, including the final 22 they attempted.
Brown scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Sullivan could add only a pair of free throws to his first-half total to finish with 16 as the only other Greyhounds player in double figures. Junior forward Michael Tuck scored his eight points on six shots and grabbed a team-high five rebounds. The Loyola made 46.8 percent from the field (22-47), but missed all five of its three-point attempts in the second half after making four-of-10 in the first 20 minutes.
After the consolation final on Saturday, the Greyhounds will next be in action Tuesday night when they travel across the Charm City to take on Maryland-Baltimore County at 7:30 p.m. That game will be televised live on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.