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Navy Is Game, but Loses 6th Straight

By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page D03

It was another loss for Navy last night at Alumni Hall, making it nearly a month since the Midshipmen had experienced a victory. And although the losing is beginning to wear on the Midshipmen, they continue to be competitive each time out. Navy stayed with Columbia for 30 minutes before eventually losing, 69-63, for its sixth straight loss.

"Familiar box score," said Bill Lange, Navy's first-year coach. "Instead of Bill Lange, I feel like Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day.' "

Before 1,017 fans, which included a strong Columbia contingent, the Midshipmen fought and scrapped, rallying from an 11-point deficit with 3 minutes 32 seconds remaining. They just failed to make the plays down the stretch to come away with a win.

"I think this team is good, but we need to grow up and learn how to get things done," Lange said. "We're still in the infant stage."

It was amazing that Navy (4-12) was in the game at all. Matt Fannin led the Midshipmen with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, but he was about the only one making shots for Navy. The Midshipmen shot 38 percent from the field, 53 percent from the foul line and missed 20 of 25 three-point attempts.

The only area in which they were superior to Columbia (10-4) was rebounding. Navy had 11 more rebounds overall than the Lions and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.

Navy finds itself in a position not all that different from where its opponent from the Ivy League was two years ago. Columbia was 2-25 the year before Coach Joe Jones arrived and led the Lions to the second-biggest turnaround in conference history in his first season. Lange, who worked with Jones on Villanova's coaching staff for two seasons, faces a similar rebuilding task at Navy.

But unlike Jones, Lange has been thwarted by injuries to key players and the indefinite suspension of the team's top returning scorer, sophomore forward Carlton Baldwin. Laramie Mergerson, who leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game, has missed the last two games with a broken hand.

Forced to start three freshmen, Lange has had to make do with a patchwork lineup.

"They're a lot like we were," Jones said. "They're just learning how to play their style of basketball. . . . He's got a tougher job because he's got a lot of freshmen."

N. CAROLINA A&T 82, HOWARD 72: Steven Koger scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Aggies in Greensboro, N.C. Will Gant led Howard (5-9, 2-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) with 15 points, and Reggie Bates added a career-high 12.

Hokies Women Fall in OT

Marquetta Dickens's three-point play with 22 seconds left in overtime gave North Carolina State a 76-75 victory over No. 23 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

Dickens and Kendra Bell each scored 14 points for the Wolfpack (13-4, 2-2 ACC) in a game that featured 18 ties and 22 lead changes.

Carrie Mason led Virginia Tech (11-4, 1-2) with 14 points, Kirby Copeland scored 13 and Christie Marrone added 12.

N. CAROLINA A&T 78, HOWARD 74: Guard Shareka Glover scored 23 points as the Lady Aggies handed the visiting Lady Bison their first conference loss. Guards Daisha Hicks and Brittany James each scored 12 points for Howard (9-5, 4-1 MEAC), which hit only 8 of 20 free throws.

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