After its best start in almost a decade, Navy has taken a step back in the past couple weeks. The Midshipmen have lost three of their last four, including Wednesday’s setback against American. As he prepares his team to play at Colgate on Saturday, Navy Coach Billy Lange is trying to ensure a sense of panic doesn’t set in.
“Our program is going through an unbelievable transition stage right now,” Lange said. “We go from no expectations to expectations. . . . Our guys, we have to understand that just because we lose doesn’t mean you’re back to the Dark Ages that you were before. It’s how you respond to it, the attitude you have after it. That really falls on me. I’ve got to make sure that the attitude is where it needs to be.”
Navy (14-7, 3-3 Patriot League), which is tied for third place in the conference with Lehigh, had a couple chances late in the game to beat American, the defending Patriot League champion, but wasn’t able to convert. Nonetheless, in a one-point loss to the second-place team in the league, Lange saw plenty of encouraging signs.
“I felt that for the first time, probably since Mount St. Mary’s [on Dec. 9], we kind of found ourselves again in terms of our grit and our guts and our defensive intensity and our ball-sharing,” Lange said. “Not that we’ve strayed far, but I don’t think it’s been consistent for the last 50 days.”
After allowing American to shoot 56.7 percent from the floor in the first half, Navy did a better job defensively after halftime, holding the Eagles to 39.1 percent. The Midshipmen forced AU into 13 second-half turnovers and turned the Eagles’ 18 miscues into 27 points.
“We kind of lost ourselves the last two weeks, and we’re just trying to find out where we went wrong,” said Kaleo Kina, who broke out of his shooting slump, scoring 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Kina had not scored in double figures in the previous two games after scoring 10 or more points in the first 18.
“Once we find ourselves, I think we’ll be good. We’ve got eight more games to get it right. That’s 16 practices. . . . We’re going to figure it out. We’ll be good.”
A win against American would have put Navy just a game out of first place in the conference standings. Though he acknowledges the missed opportunity, Lange doesn’t concern himself much with where the Midshipmen are in the league race.
“I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I don’t care about the Patriot League picture,” Lange said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether we play on the road in the first playoff game or if we play at home in the first playoff game. The most important thing to me in a league that has a tournament with a single bid is that we are playing our best basketball at the end of the season. . . . The most important thing to me is just to focus on Colgate and getting better.”
January 30, 2009; 6:08 AM ET
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