Jordan Sugars might not put up the same numbers as some of the elite scorers in the Patriot League, but he is rapidly becoming one of Navy's most dangerous weapons.
The sophomore posted a career-high 27 points with seven rebounds in a 78-75 win over Coppin State on Dec. 30 and had his fourth double-double of the year with 19 points and 10 rebounds in a 79-73 win over Elon on Jan. 2. Sugars has been a beast on the glass, nabbing 8.3 boards per game, tied for best in the conference.
Sugars' role is a key to taking some of the pressure off teammate Chris Harris. Navy came into this season without Kaleo Kina, last year's league top scorer. But Harris has thus far been spectacular, averaging more than 20 points per game as the Midshipmen attempt to re-establish the offensive clout they brought to the court last year.
Despite the strong play of Harris and Sugars, Navy hasn't quite put it all together. Billy Lange's team still suffers from atrocious defense.
Lange's strategy is to run the floor, put a lot of pressure on the opposing defense and score quickly. The problem with that run-and-gun attack is it leaves open lanes for opposing shooters.
Chris Harris and Jordan Harris provide the kind of one-two punch Kina and Harris had last season. Whether the Mids can figure out a way to make some stops on the defensive end will be key for the Mids to make a run as league play rolls on.
--Chris Harris leads the Patriot League in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game, and is third in free-throw percentage (.863).
--Navy may have an explosive offense, but the Mids' defense is abysmal, dead last in the conference, allowing 75.3 points per game.
ON THE SPOT: Allowing more than 75 points per game is not going to get it done in any conference, no matter how explosive your offense. The Mids' style of play is fun to watch and roughs up opposing defenses, but it's easily exploited.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In years past, we've really had to rely on one or two players to really carry the load for us. This is not that team. This is the first game we've won like that where we didn't get the shot from Chris." -- Head coach Billy Lange, on his team's balanced play in a 69-67 win over Bucknell on Jan. 9.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The overriding theme of the Mids' season has been players stepping up. Chris Harris assumed the scoring mantle left vacant from departing senior Kaleo Kina, and Jordan Sugars has also quickly assumed a leadership role for the Mids. The sophomore was a force in the early going of the season, rocketing to the top of the conference's rebounding list.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual starters -- G Jordan Sugars, G Chris Harris, G Romeo Garcia, G O.J. Avworo, C Mark Veazey. Key subs -- F T.J. Topercer.
Navy 79, Elon 73
Howard 72, Navy 65
Navy 69, Bucknell 67
vs. Lehigh, Thursday, Jan. 14
vs. Lafayette, Saturday, Jan. 16
at Holy Cross, Wednesday, Jan. 20
vs. Army, Saturday, Jan. 23
at American, Wednesday, Jan. 27
IN FOCUS: The start of conference play will be a nice tune-up for the offensive-minded Mids. Opening league play against the poor defense of Lehigh should allow Navy some confidence as the schedule gets tougher.
--Romeo Garcia struggled with a nagging hamstring last season, but he has stepped up this season. Garcia is second on the team in rebounding.
--Sophomore Jordan Sugars nabbed his second Patriot League Player of the Week award on Jan. 5. Sugars netted a career-high 27 points with seven rebounds in a 78-75 win over Coppin State on Dec. 30 and tallied his fourth double-double of the year with 19 points and 10 rebounds in a 79-73 win over Elon on Jan. 2.