ANNAPOLIS -- Navy's poor defense didn't sit well with coach Pete Herrmann in a weekend loss that opened its conference season. But last night, the defense stood up and was counted.
With deflections and steals resulting in many fast-break layups, the Midshipmen evened their Colonial Athletic Association record with a 100-97 win over North Carolina-Wilmington before 1,558 at Halsey Field House.
Erik Harris was the catalyst, setting a school record with seven steals and tying a record with 14 assists to go along with a team-high 21 points for Navy (5-7, 1-1). The senior guard entered the game leading the conference in scoring, assists and steals.
"He, I think, is the premier point guard in our league," Herrmann said. "He's playing that way game in and game out. Most of the time, his decisions are pretty darn good, and he's a pretty confident player right now."
Navy had lost its conference opener on Saturday to East Carolina, 97-81.
Harris led a defensive charge that left the Seahawks disoriented. Eddie Reddick (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Nick Marusich (17 points, 10 rebounds) played strong inside, Lance Reinhard (19 points) hit five three-pointers, and little-used guard Mel Davis -- although scoring just one point -- sacrificed his body in his 11 minutes.
"We can't even attempt to simulate the organized chaos that Pete tries to attempt," said Seahawks coach Kevin Eastman. "They give you a lot of physical traps, which we didn't handle well early."
That was when Navy jumped to 20-6 lead in the first eight minutes, including one 14-2 run, during which four steals by Harris resulted in Navy baskets.
"We had a little talk before the game about our intensity,Herrmann said. "We just have to put enough physical pressure on the other team for us to be consistent."
Still, that early surge wasn't enough, as UNC-Wilmington forwarBryan Withers scored 15 of his 17 first-half points in the final seven minutes, helping pull his team within 45-44.
The Seahawks took the lead in the opening minutes of thsecond half, and eventually built its biggest lead, 57-49, with 14 minutes, 30 seconds left. But two three- pointers by Reinhard sparked an 11-0 run that gave Navy a 60-57 lead, and, after the Seahawks tied it at 60, the Midshipmen went on an 8-2 run to take the lead for good.
Navy hit 17 of 21 free throws in the final six minutes to hold off the Seahawks.
"Our game plan was to limit the number of three-point shot attempts and cut it in half and limit it to 13 or 14," said Eastman of Navy, which had averaged 26.8 three-point attempts going in and finished with a season-low 15. "What we gave them was the interior game -- the post feed -- and some drives."
Another key for Navy was shutting down Withers. After his outburst just before the half, the 6-foot-6 junior scored four points in the second half.
Navy won at home against a conference opponent for the first time since Jan. 13, 1990.
"If they shoot the ball well, they can compete in this league," Eastman said.