Navy stunned by Army Gutsy Cadet Lueking ends 10-loss frustration, 64-58

March 03, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Army senior basketball captain Mark Lueking had experienced four years of frustration playing against Navy, marked by 10 straight losses.

And the Cadets' chances of ending the streak looked exceptionally bleak when Lueking, a 2,000-point career scorer, momentarily was knocked unconscious in a first-half collision with Navy's Hassan Booker yesterday in their opening-round game of the Patriot League tournament.

"I tripped and ran into Booker's knee," said Lueking, who needed 10 stitches to close a gash under his chin. "I hyper-extended my back and had trouble breathing. But I'd made a vow there was no way we would lose this game."

After a 10-minute break, Lueking kept his promise, making a key three-point play in the closing minutes to give the last-seeded Cadets a stunning 64-58 upset over the second-seeded Midshipmen.

How big an upset? Before the game, Army (7-19) had been rated 305th and last in the national Division I power ratings.

Navy (15-12), which had tied Colgate for the regular-season title, was forced to play a first-round game after losing a coin flip.

The Mids, who shot a sickly 36 percent (19-for-53), trailed almost the entire game and faced a 44-32 deficit with 15:31 remaining before staging a furious rally. They closed to 53-52 on point guard Brian Walker's layup with 4:25 left.

Sophomore forward Eddie Lucas, Navy's leading scorer, who was held without a field goal (0-for-7), missed a three-point attempt. Lueking (16 points, five rebounds) hustled in the lane to grab the long carom and quickly dribbled downcourt.

"I saw only two Navy players back on defense and decided to take it all the way," he said.

Lueking pulled up on the baseline for a short jumper. He was fouled by Walker, and the shot fell. Lueking added the free throw for a 56-52 cushion with 2:22 left.

The Mids would go scoreless for close to four minutes and a follow-up by George Tatum (15 points) with 82 seconds left helped seal Navy's fate.

Navy coach Don DeVoe did not have to look far to find the reasons why his team's season had ended on such a shocking note.

"Shooting has been our Achilles' heel all season, and today was a prime example of how we've had trouble scoring," said DeVoe.

"We managed to win 15 games by sheer hustle. But today Army out-hustled us. They forced us into 17 turnovers that gave them 17 points. And we didn't force enough errors to create easy baskets for ourselves."

And then there was Army's 6-foot-4 junior center Jason Wands, who made eight of 10 shots to score 18 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

"He's a classic overachiever," said DeVoe.

With Lueking sidelined 10 minutes of the first half, Wands picked up the slack with 14 points to sponsor Army's 35-25 lead.

"I was so emotional, I was ready to explode," said Wands.

For Army, which lost three of its starters early in the season, it was a chance to salvage another season of despair.

Navy can only wait 'til next year. Said DeVoe, who has most of his key players returning: "This loss is going to make us come back with a vengeance."

Patriot League tournament

At Worcester, Mass.

First round: Yesterday

Army 64, Navy 58

Holy Cross 81, Lehigh 66

Bucknell 56, Lafayette 55, OT

Semifinals: Today

Army vs. Holy Cross, 5 p.m.

Colgate vs. Bucknell, 7:30 p.m.

Championship: Wednesday

Semifinal winners, 9:30 p.m.

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