AU tops Navy in 2 OTs

Joe Hill, left, forced a second overtime, hitting an improbable basket in the final seconds of the first OT.
Joe Hill, left, forced a second overtime, hitting an improbable basket in the final seconds of the first OT. (Mark Gail/the Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010

American University defeated Navy by rallying from a five-point deficit in the second overtime Wednesday night, going ahead on Vlad Moldoveanu's layup with 14 seconds left in front of 3,528 at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.

But if not for a remarkable sequence at the end of the first extra session, the Eagles never would have been in position to claim an 80-77 victory, defeat the Midshipmen for the fourth straight time and remain in contention for home-court advantage in the first round of the Patriot League tournament.

With the Eagles trailing by two with 1.5 seconds left, Steve Luptak lofted a pass almost the length of the court. Stephen Lumpkins caught the ball in the lane before having it knocked away. It bounced to Joe Hill, who flipped it in for not just his only points of the extraordinary game, but the first two-pointer of his 27-game career.

"I lost the ball [that Luptak threw] because it went so high, I thought it hit the scoreboard," said Hill, a sophomore guard who is 24 of 66 on three-pointers in two years and, after this basket, 1 of 5 on two-pointers.

"Then I saw it appear out of nowhere and saw Stephen alone under the basket. They recovered really quick. I just saw it pop out to me and I shot it as fast as I could and floated it up."

Midshipmen Coach Billy Lange found it hard to believe that so much unfolded in such a small amount of time, saying: "I am curious to how a ball can get tipped twice, bounce on the floor, picked up and shot in 1.5 seconds."

Nonetheless, the Eagles (9-19, 6-7) pulled within a game of the fourth-place Midshipmen (13-15, 7-6), with Saturday's finales to decide the seeds. If the teams are tied, AU would host a quarterfinal next Wednesday by virtue of sweeping the season series.

Lumpkins had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Moldoveanu 19 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists for AU. Chris Harris, the league's leading scorer, had 30 points before fouling out and Jordan Sugars had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Sugars's twisting shot had given Navy a 72-70 lead with 1.5 seconds left in the first overtime.

The game featured 57 fouls, 58 free throws and 38 turnovers.

On Luptak's pass, "Lumpkins was the target, and we told him, if he got a clean catch, he could pass to the second wave coming down behind him," Eagles Coach Jeff Jones said. "But if he was able to catch it close enough to the basket, just take it to the basket."

Said Lumpkins: "The [Navy] guy left me, so I thought I was going to be able to catch it and get a layup. There were a bunch of hands in there and it ended up going to Joe."

In the second overtime, Sugars's three-pointer and single free throws by two teammates provided a five-point edge, but the Eagles scored the final eight points. Navy missed three shots and committed two turnovers. Moldoveanu powered to the basket for the go-ahead points, and after Sugars slipped out of bounds with nine seconds remaining and Daniel Munoz's free throws gave AU a three-point lead, Sugars missed a three-pointer.

Navy found itself trailing by 12 early in the second half, but used a 28-8 run to forge an eight-point lead with 5 1/2 minutes left. From that point, however, "We took a lot of bad shots," Lange said.

The Eagles scored 12 straight for a 62-58 lead with 1:38 left and had a three-point edge with 20 seconds to go when Navy's O.J. Avworo converted a three-point play with 20 seconds left.

"I feel like I've been through a fight," said Jones, whose team dropped a double-overtime game at Colgate just 11 days earlier. "We've had a bunch of games like this, and we haven't come out on the winning end, so it's great to get this."

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