ANNAPOLIS -- Navy's basketball agony has come at least temporarily to an end.
The Midshipmen broke their six-game losing streak with a 97-80 victory over UMBC last night before 774 at Halsey Field House. Their last previous win was Jan. 13 against Loyola.
"I don't like even a two-game losing streak," Navy coach Pete Herrmann said. "But we have to keep reassuring these kids. Remember, we have a lot of young players."
Navy (5-14) got 18 points from freshman Mark Majick in extending its series lead over UMBC to 5-1. The Retrievers last defeated the Midshipmen in 1988.
Another freshman, Brian Cochran, scored 16 for Navy and a third, Derrick Wall, added 11. Senior center Nick Marusich, plagued by a bad shoulder in recent games, scored 12.
Navy made 41 free throws, tying the academy record set in a 1986 NCAA tournament victory over Syracuse. The Midshipmen's 53 free throws matched the record by a UMBC opponent.
UMBC (5-14), led by Skip Saunders' 17 points and Stanley Wright's 16, has split its last six games. The Retrievers played last night without Sony Nixon, their leading scorer (16.7) and rebounder (10.3), who suffered a hip pointer Sunday in practice.
"With Nixon out, it changes our game," said UMBC coach Earl Hawkins, who used his seventh different lineup in as many games. "He's our force in the middle."
Navy opened the second half as if intent on dissipating its commanding 21-point halftime lead.
Navy's lead shriveled quickly to 12 and then to nine with 11 minutes to go. The Midshipmen then awoke and rebuilt their lead.
At the game's outset, neither team acted as if it wanted it. After five minutes, UMBC led 2-1. The score was tied three times before Navy ran off 10 straight points for a 32-18 advantage.
The Midshipmen pulled even further ahead as the first half wound down. Helped by 19 consecutive free throws during one stretch and 21-of-24 for the half, Navy led at halftime, 51-30.
"The first half was where we lost the game, no question," Hawkins said. "We blew some golden opportunities and could have rattled them and been up 15-3 if we had capitalized on some things."
Navy, still seeking its first Patriot League win, will try for the eighth time tomorrow night at Bucknell. UMBC will play host to Central Connecticut on Thursday.