Sprink Douses Navy’s Drought
Career-High 36 Points Helps End Mids’ 17-Year Skid at AU; Hawks Edge Colonials
Greg Sprink scored a career-high 36 points last night and, in the process, helped Navy end a 17-year winless drought at American’s Bender Arena.
Sprink contributed at least 20 points for the seventh consecutive game — the first time a Midshipman has accomplished that feat since David Robinson did it 13 times in early 1987 — as Navy pulled away in the final six minutes to earn a 77-66 Patriot League victory before 1,012 spectators.
The Midshipmen had not won in Washington since 1991 and had dropped 14 of their previous 15 meetings overall with the Eagles. Last week, Navy (10-11, 3-3) ended a 17-game losing streak to Holy Cross.
“It feels good to get the points, but I am more impressed with the win,” said Sprink, who is averaging 28.2 points per game in league play.
Because the senior swingman made just 6 of 18 shots in a twopoint loss to Army on Sunday, “I think this was important to him,” Navy Coach Billy Lange said. “I thought he had good focus, he played with good passion, good leadership.”
Sprink, who entered the game shooting 86 percent from the free throw line, made 17 of 18 against the Eagles (11-10, 3-3), who lost at home for the second time in five days. He has made 67 of his last 73. Last night he scored 18 points in each half, had 13 of Navy’s final 17 points and added four steals.
Brian Gilmore scored 16 points and Travis Lay 15 for the Eagles, who shot 30 percent in the second half, committed 17 turnovers and wasted a 47-31 rebounding advantage.
“It was probably our worst performance of the year,” AU Coach Jeff Jones said.
Navy led most of the first half, building its advantage to six on several occasions. Sprink made two of his first three three-pointers, but also missed a breakaway attempt when he seemed indecisive whether to lay it in or dunk. He added a three-point play and hit 8 of 9 free throws, including a pair with about 31⁄ minutes to go to provide a 33-28 lead.
The Midshipmen were 13 of 15 from the line in the half, but had no field goals in the final five minutes and poor rebounding allowed the Eagles to end the half on a 9-2 run and forge a 37-35 lead.
But Chris Harris, averaging 25 points over the past three games, scored eight shortly after the break and Kaleo Kina added seven as the Midshipmen built an eight-point edge. While that transpired, AU shot 1 of 10 and had five turnovers during an 81⁄ minute stretch.
The Eagles regrouped to draw within two, but Navy answered with seven straight points, capped by Sprink’s drive with 5 minutes 40 seconds left. When AU made another run, Sprink scored his team’s next nine points.
His previous career high was 34 against Brown two seasons ago.
“He is kind of a hybrid — he’s very strong and he can post up, so if you put a smaller guy on him he really hurts you inside,” Jones said. “He can shoot the three, but the thing that really ties it altogether, he can put the ball on the floor as well.”
Notes: Garrison Carr’s three three-pointers left him three short of Frank Ross’s single-season AU record of 86, set in 1986-87.
SAINT JOSEPH’S 61, GEORGE WASHINGTON 59: Pat Calathes scored 21 points, including the go-ahead basket late in the game, to give Saint Joseph’s a 61-59 win over struggling George Washington at Smith Center.
Rob Ferguson and Ahmad Nivins each had 15 points for the Hawks (13-5, 5-1 Atlantic 10), who won their fourth straight.
Rob Diggs had 20 points on 10for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds before fouling out for the Colonials (511, 1-5), who lost their fifth straight.
The Hawks took the lead for good at 51-49 on Calathes’s basket with five minutes left. The Hawks stretched the lead to 59-51, but the Colonials fought back and cut the lead to 60-59 on a three-pointer by Noel Wilmore with 2.2 seconds left.
After a free throw by Garrett Williamson gave the Hawks a 61-59 lead, George Washington failed to complete a long inbounds pass as time expired.
Tasheed Carr had six assists in his first start for the Hawks after missing four games with a sprained right ankle. He came into the game leading the conference with 6.6 assists per game.
Maureece Rice is hit from behind by Ahmad Nivins of Saint Joseph’s while going after an inbounds pass with GW trailing by two in the final seconds.
GW’s coaching staff and students protest for a foul on the pass to Rice, the final play of the Colonials’ loss. GW’s Hermann Opoku is in the foreground.