Pete Herrmann will have to wait until the new year to find out how his Navy basketball team fares in the Colonial Athletic Association, but the Middies' up-tempo style is faring just fine against state opposition.
Navy handled Towson State by a 102-88 score last night, as the only way the Tigers could slow down senior guard Erik Harris was on the videotape machine. Harris slashed and squared up for 38 points, the third straight game in which he has improved his career high. The Midshipmen improved to 2-3, their other victory coming Nov. 26 against Mount St. Mary's.
The only opponent ever to score more points against a Towson State team coached by Terry Truax was Syracuse, which got 105 in a Carrier Dome rout a year ago. The last visitor to reach 100 at the Towson Center was the University of Baltimore in March 1977. There was more to Navy's distinctive outing witnessed by 1,356: The Tigers (2-3) had won 14 of their previous 15 games at the Towson Center.
Navy is averaging 96.4 points per game, and Herrmann said that starts with work at the opposite end. Herrmann said he went to an up-tempo style this season to better use his depth. He needs a lot of bodies to play the kind of effective pressure the Middies threw at Towson State, which committed 20 turnovers and made 43 percent of its field goal attempts, 20 percent (3-for-15) from three-point range.
"I've talked to Paul Westhead, Rick Pitino, [Dayton's] Jim O'Brien," Herrmann said, referring to coaches known for setting a breakneck pace. "They all say that everything you get in this system comes from defense, and I agree totally."
The Tigers fell behind 15-7 in the first four minutes and even though they had several leads -- the last at 43-42 on Chuck Lightening's basket 18 seconds into the second half -- they played catch-up the entire game.
"Our effort wasn't there tonight," Truax said. "Navy outhustled us, and they sure didn't look like a 1-3 team to me. I don't think they're necessarily in better condition than we are, they just played harder."
Towson State got a big night from Lightening, who had 27 points and nine rebounds. Its backcourt trio of flu-weakened Devin Boyd, Lew Waller and Terrance Jacobs teamed for 49 points, but they were a combined 18-for-50 from the field, and all were overshadowed by Harris.
A 6-foot-1 senior guard from Fort Washington who prepped at St. John's in Washington, D.C., Harris played lesser roles on Navy teams that lost to Towson State each of the last three seasons. XTC But he got his share of revenge last night, going 14-for-17 from the field (11-for-11 from inside three-point range) and adding nine assists, two steals and five rebounds.
"It must be my lucky month," said Harris, whose scoring average is 24.0, nearly double last season's 12.9. "I think my high school high was 33 points. I feel real confident in the system. We've been having good practices and it's showing in the games, even the ones we lost.
"Eddie [Reddick] went to work too. He kept telling me to 'come inside, come inside.' He was ready."
Reddick, a 6-6 senior forward who has been with Harris since their days together at St. John's, had 21 points and nine rebounds. His 7-for-8 shooting was one reason Navy made a season-high 53.5 percent of its field goal attempts. Sophomore guards John Haase and Michael Burd had 12 apiece, and junior center Sam Cook had 11 and nine rebounds.
Navy was only 8-for-30 from three-point range -- Burd was 0-for-7 in the first half -- but Herrmann wants the Middies to keep firing. They'll do so tomorrow night, when their 7 p.m. game against Penn at the Palestra helps kick off the Army-Navy festivities in Philadelphia.