HONOLULU -- Navy coach Pete Herrmann might think about asking the NCAA to allow his players to shoot their free throws from behind the three-point line.
Early yesterday, the Midshipmen missed 11 of 22 foul shots, 10 in the second half, in a 95-88 loss to the University of Hawaii in the 28th-annual Rainbow Classic.
Although they shot free throws poorly, the Midshipmen were able to keep the game tight because of their three-point shooting. Navy drilled 13 of 26 three-pointers, including six from guard Mark Majick (team-high 21 points) and four from forward John Haase.
"We knew they could shoot threes," said Hawaii coach Riley Wallace. "We didn't know they would shoot 26 of them."
But the Midshipmen realize there is more to the game than long-range shots.
"Everybody thinks that if you're going to make the big threes, you're going to win by it," said Majick. "We made a lot of threes, but I don't think we played good defense at all."
At least not on Phil Lott, a 6-foot-4 guard. Lott, who entered the game averaging 21 points, hit 13 of 20 shots and burned the Navy man-to-man defense for a game-high 29 points.
"He was really tough down the stretch," Herrmann said.
And down the stretch Navy couldn't keep pace.
Midshipmen guard Victor Mickel's only free throw out of seven tries tied the score at 72 with 5 minutes, 56 remaining. But then Rainbows forward Chris Walz scored eight of his 19 points and guard Kurt Taylor hit five free throws to give Hawaii a 93-85 lead with 16 seconds left.
"I thought we had it," Navy freshman guard Kevin Kozak said. "I thought we had things clicking and we were starting to pick it up on defense and really get it together on offense, but things just changed courses."
What didn't change was Navy's success on the free-throw line. The Mids had entered the game shooting 59.3 percent from the field.
"In four of our losses, that was the biggest thing," Herrmann said. "The free-throw shooting has not been good enough."
So what's the problem with hitting a 15-foot shot with nobody guarding you?
"We're so young," said Majick, one of two freshmen starters, who went 3-for-3 from the line. "Missing free throws is an example of it. It's a lack of experience."
Nonetheless, Navy nearly experienced winning only its second game of the season at Blaisdell Arena as 4,966 fans wildly cheered their home team.
The Mids seemed to block out the distractions and might have used the everyone-against-us mentality to their advantage. This showed early as Navy shot close to 58 percent and built a 29-19 lead midway through the first half.
"We heard they hadn't played since Dec. 8, but they didn't show it as far as being rusty," Walz said. "They came out with all kinds of energy, and they really brought it to us. I can't believe they hadn't played a game in that long with the way they were burning up the nets."
But the Rainbows' shooting also was impressive in the first half, as they hit 21 of 33 shots (64 percent), including three of four from three-point range.
Lott was a major part of that success, especially late in the half, scoring nine points, on dunks, layups and even a 10-footer, to help his team to a 47-44 halftime edge.
"We didn't think that we could just come out there and run through the motions and beat them," Lott said. "We knew we had to play a good game. We knew they had good shooters and they came out and proved that."
And they also proved they need to work on their free-throw
shooting. Today they play against Wisconsin in a consolation game. This doesn't leave much time for improvement.