ANNAPOLIS -- This wasn't what Navy had in mind for its last regular-season basketball game.
Ahead by as many as eight points in the second half and intent on ending its five-game losing streak, the Midshipmen (6-21) lost to North Carolina-Greensboro (7-21), 74-71, last night before 736 in Alumni Hall. The Spartans had dropped 12 straight.
Navy was burned for 36 points by Chuck Fortney. The 6-foot-2 sophomore from Steelton, Pa., scored 27 of his team's last 33 points in less than 10 minutes. It was the seventh time this season that an opposing player scored his career-high against Navy.
With 10 minutes left and NC-Greensboro trailing by seven points, coach Mike Dement turned to Fortney on the bench and gave him an ultimatum.
"He said if I was going to prove I'm going to be a clutch player in this program, this was my last chance," Fortney said.
Clearly, Fortney made the most of it. Afterward, Dement had two words of praise. "Good job," he told Fortney. It was the most points by a NC-Greensboro player since 1986.
Despite Fortney's outburst, Navy had a chance to win at the end. Michael Burd sank a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to bring Navy to 72-71. Fortney then sank two free throws for a three-point edge and John Haase's three-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
The game was Navy's last before its debut in the Patriot League tournament. The eighth-seeded Mids will face No. 1 Fordham Saturday at 7 p.m. in an opening-round game at Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.
It will be Navy's second encounter with Fordham in a week. It lost to the Rams, 73-68, Saturday in its final league regular-season game.
"We've lost so many close games," Navy coach Pete Herrmann said. "We've just got to handle things down the stretch. If we don't handle it Saturday, it's all over. We go home."
Two Navy players returned to the lineup, for different reasons. Freshman Wes Cooper scored four points after missing two games with an ankle injury.
Haase was held out of the Fordham game by Herrmann after the two had had differences of opinion. Haase scored seven last night. Burd and Derrick Wall led Navy with 14 each.
Navy fell behind by as many as six points early in the first half, but came back to tie it at 21.
The half was distinguished by a three-point goal by Nick Marusich, Navy's 6-foot-9 center. It was the first of his four-year career.