Navy Men 89,
Eastern Michigan 81
Navy senior forward Scott Long eclipsed his career high in points with 10 minutes still to play against Eastern Michigan yesterday. And that was before he scored 11 of his team's final 14 points in an 89-81 victory before 1,013 at Alumni Hall.
Long finished with 31 points, and the Midshipmen (4-7) defeated a Division I team for the first time in 33 days and defeated a Mid-American Conference team for the first time since 1986-87.
The Eagles (5-3) were no ordinary MAC team; they are the only conference team to have all five starters back from last season and they added freshman guard JaQuan Hart, a transfer from Ohio State who was the runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Michigan as a high school senior.
The Midshipmen trailed 50-48 following a free throw by Markus Austin with 16 minutes 32 seconds to play. They answered with a 9-0 run culminating in a jump shot by Long for a 57-50 lead with 13:59 to play. The Eagles trailed the rest of the game.
That was partly because Long scored 11 points over the final 4:47; he made nine consecutive free throws in that stretch. His previous career high was 16 points in a 52-50 loss to Ohio on Dec. 20.
"We finally finished a game for once," Long said. "We'd been close in how many games, but instead of saying we've got to win this ourselves, we'd hope they'll lose it. Today, we didn't get tentative, even when they made a run."
Long was one of four Navy players to score in double figures. Sophomore guard Marcell Cummings had a career-high 16 points, senior guard Jason Jeanpierre added 15 and senior forward Francis Ebong had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Sophomore reserve guard Kwame Ofori (Centreville) had eight assists, the most by a Navy player since last season.
Austin had 20 points for the Eagles; Hart had five points and four rebounds.
Navy made 23 of 25 free throws (92 percent) in the second half; it entered having made 62 percent for the season, which is among the worst in Division I. Ebong made all four of his free throws in the second half; he entered shooting 51 percent.
"When Francis makes all four in the second half, you know things are going well," Navy Coach Don DeVoe said. As a team, "there's really no explanation for it."
Navy hopes to keep its momentum entering its final two nonconference games, at Mount St. Mary's (4-3) and Air Force (5-3).
"It was obvious that Navy's leadership and coaches got the team to come out and play inspired, they played good defense and rebounded well," Eastern Michigan Coach Jim Boone said. "We tried to make things tough for Ebong. When Scott Long saw that, he said he was going to have a [good] night, and he did."