Villanova coach Jay Wright says he does not like playing against coaches with whom he has worked. After the scare Navy threw into his Wildcats tonight, he may never schedule another game against his former assistant, Billy Lange.
The Midshipmen battled the 15th-ranked Wildcats down to a one-possession game in the closing stages but then went cold, and Villanova made enough free throws down the stretch to pick up a 78-68 victory at the Pavilion.
Lange worked on Wright's staff as a director of basketball operations and as an assistant from 2001 through 2004. This was Lange's second trip to the Pavilion in his current job, and the second time the Midshipmen gave the Cats a close game.
The Mids (8-4) got as close as three, 67-64, on a free throw by Kaleo Kina with 2 minutes, 38 seconds to play, but Navy missed its next four shots from the field.
The Wildcats (11-1), who got their last field goal from Dante Cunningham with 4:21 remaining, hit their last 11 points from the free-throw line, five by Antonio Pena. Cunningham hit the last one of his 24 points from the stripe, and Scottie Reynolds notched a pair to give him 23 points.
Chris Harris scored 30 points to lead Navy, hitting a career-high eight three-point baskets in 10 attempts. The Midshipmen knocked down 14 three-pointers in 28 tries, as compared to a 6-of-26 mark from inside the arc.
The Wildcats built a lead that grew to as many as 11 points on six occasions but could not extend the margin beyond that. They led by 61-51 on Cunningham's layup with 8:14 to play before Navy rallied in a hail of three-point baskets.
Jordan Sugars, Harris and Adam Teague rained in treys in a 10-4 spurt that brought the Midshipmen to within 65-61 with 4:45 to play. The Mids were playing with confidence and, when Villanova defenders came out to contest from the arc, they drove to the hoop and drew fouls.
But after Kina got the Midshipmen to within three points, Navy managed just one field goal - Harris' only non-three-point basket of the night.
Villanova held a 37-28 lead at the half, but the real star of the opening 20 minutes was Harris, Navy's 6-foot-2 junior guard from Mechanicsville, Va.
Harris, who came into the game hitting just 33.3 percent of his shots from three-point range, knocked down his first trey 21/2 minutes into the game and didn't stop. He nailed his first six three-pointers before finally missing one.
Harris finished the half with 18 points, almost two-thirds of his team's total. The Midshipmen made 8 of 14 shots from deep, compared to an almost incredible 2 of 13 from inside the arc.
As for Villanova, the Wildcats connected on three treys before the first media time-out but only one after that. They shot 45.5 percent overall from the field in the half.
Wright started Reggie Redding in the second half in an attempt to neutralize Harris a little better. Harris connected on his first three-ball of the half at the 14:02 mark - shortly after Redding went out for a rest.