ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 23 -- Steve Hood scored 29 points for James Madison tonight. Hood's biggest play, however, was a rebound of his own missed shot with six seconds left that enabled the Dukes to squeak out an 81-80 victory over Navy.
James Madison, the Colonial Athletic Association leader (10-6, 5-0), won its fifth straight and last-place Navy (5-12, 1-5) lost its fifth in a row. But for most of a tense second half, it appeared it might be upset time.
The Midshipmen, fueled by Erik Harris's 19 points and nine assists, twice built eight-point leads, 63-55 and 68-60. They were still in front, 75-72, with 5:51 remaining, but the Dukes hit the offensive backboards hard during a nine-point run that made it 81-75 with 2:47 left.
Down the stretch, Jeff Chambers scored on the fourth shot of one sequence and the third of another, while Hood followed up his own shot. It was a sudden surge, because for the game the Dukes had only 12 offensive rebounds to Navy's 19.
Two free throws by Harris brought Navy within four, and one of two by Nick Marusich closed the gap to 81-78. When Eddie Reddick followed up Lance Reinhard's missed three-pointer with 1:57 remaining, the difference was one point and the 1,760 fans -- biggest crowd of the season here -- were on their feet.
After Reinhard stole the ball from Madison's Fess Irvin, Harris's three-point try was blocked by Billy Coles, with Harris screaming for a foul. Although 1:37 remained, Navy did not get the ball again until the last second.
Chambers missed a shot as the 45-second clock expired, but the ball was knocked out of bounds and Madison retained possession with 51 seconds left. The Dukes held the ball until eight seconds remained, when Hood, a DeMatha product and onetime Maryland player, missed a long jumper, but raced in for the rebound.
Fouled by Reinhard with two seconds left, Hood missed both shots. Four timeouts were called, three by Navy, in the one second between Reinhard's foul and the rebound after Hood's second miss. The Midshipmen still had time for Harris to try a desperation 55-footer that was just a few inches short, evoking memories of better times for Navy basketball, four years ago, when David Robinson put in a 45-footer in similar circumstances to beat Madison.
"We deserve better," said Harris, who topped the 1,000-point mark for his career on a basket and free throw that gave Navy its 63-55 margin. "We put in a lot of effort on the court, but just a three-minute lack of effort on the defensive boards hurt us. I don't think they made more than five shots from outside the whole game, but they hurt us down low."
Actually, James Madison sank only five shots from more than five feet from the basket. Four of them came early in the second half, before the Dukes abandoned everything except pounding the ball underneath.
Navy was hampered in the late going because its three big men -- Reddick, Marusich and Sam Cook -- were playing with four fouls.
"I wasn't thinking about the fouls," said Reddick, whose two postgame missed free throws resulted in a one-point loss to Richmond a week ago. "I just didn't get inside and block out like I should have. They put a lot of pressure on the boards they hadn't put on earlier. They were pushing and shoving and they got the rebounds that counted."
"We're basically an inside-oriented team," said Dukes Coach Lefty Driesell. "When we ran our offense, we didn't have any trouble getting the ball inside. But too much of the time we were running up and down with them. Navy did a good job of playing their game and getting us to play their game. We were very fortunate to win."
"I don't live that badly," said Navy Coach Pete Herrmann. "I can't believe the way we're losing these games."