In its final regular season game of the year, the Colgate men’s basketball team held on to defeat Navy, 80-72, on Saturday in Annapolis. The Raiders’ second win in eight days over the Midshipmen gave them a season sweep in the series and secured a sixth seed in this weekend’s Patriot League Tournament.
For the first time this year, Colgate had three players score in double figures, including junior guard Jon Simon, who had a game-high 25. Senior guard Alvin Reed and sophomore forward Kendall Chones added 22 and 21, respectively.
Colgate came out and recorded a 9-3 run in the game’s first four minutes. With the small Senior Day crowd at Alumni Hall failing to spark the home team, Navy guard Greg Sprink took control. With a host of Colgate defenders harassing him, Sprink led the Midshipmen on a 24-9 run. With 8:08 remaining in the first half, Navy led by nine points.
While Sprink continued to get his points – scoring 17, on 6-of-12 shooting, in the opening half – Colgate’s offense benefited from an improved inside presence. Forcing the ball inside to Chones and senior center Marc Daniels, who scored all six of his first-half points on free throws, led Navy’s defense to collapse on the low post. This opened up the perimeter for Reed, who hit a pair of jumpers late in the half, including a three-pointer with 16 seconds to play, that trimmed the Navy lead to three.
Trailing 41-38 as it went into the locker-room, Colgate knew it had to find a way to stop Sprink. “We talked about this at halftime,” head coach Emmett Davis said, “that the first five minutes [of the second half] would be really important. We’d need to establish our inside game and defend.”
With Sprink hitting several closely contested jumpers in the first half, though, this looked to be a tough task. After halftime, Davis chose to defend Sprink with Reed, who gave up three inches to the 6’4″ Navy shooter. Outsized, Reed spent the second half hounding Sprink, fighting through screens and denying him the ball. When Sprink was able to spot up, Reed prevented him from getting clean looks.
“Alvin did a great job on Sprink,” said Davis. Reed limited Sprink to seven second-half points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field, including misses on all four three-point attempts.
With Navy’s leading scorer locked up, Colgate’s offense continued the success it found late in the first half. Chones was able to dominate the low-post, dunking over Navy’s smaller front line. He scored 12 in the second half, including five of Colgate’s first six points. His jumper at the 12:32 mark gave Colgate a 50-49 lead, one it would not relinquish.
Navy also couldn’t find a way to stop Simon, who emphatically ended his mid-season shooting slump against the Midshipmen.
“We set some really good screens for him,” Davis said. “And he did a really good job of picking and choosing his spots, not forcing shots.”
With balanced production from the backcourt of Reed and Simon and solid post play, Colgate scored a season-high 80 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. The Raiders also made their way to the free throw line 34 times, converting 25 of those attempts.
Aside from its 36-30 rebounding advantage, the play of Sprink was the lone bright spot for Navy. The sophomore finished with 24 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. With the loss, the Midshipmen fell out of a tie with Colgate in the league standings. They earned the seventh seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament.
The sixth-seeded Raiders take on Lehigh, the third seed, in a rematch of last year’s first-round Patriot League game. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. this afternoon at the Hart Center in Worcester. The winner will move on to play either Holy Cross or Navy on Sunday in the semifinals.