BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- It wasn't even close this time. Navy couldn't give Fordham a game.
After bowing to Fordham by six and five points in their regular-season meetings, Navy was crushed by the Rams, 77-59, last night in the opening round of the Patriot League tournament.
"We were concerned going in because of those two close games," said Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk. "We gave Navy the confidence they could beat us."
That confidence was nowhere in evidence. While top seed Fordham (16-12) gained a berth in the semifinals tonight against Lehigh, the eighth-seeded Mids ended another dismal season, this one with a 6-22 record. It was Navy's fifth straight losing season.The Mids dropped their last seven games after beating Colgate Feb. 8 for their only league victory.
Trailing by 14 at halftime, Navy quickly let the margin widen. Fordham led by 30 on three occasions in the second half, the last time with 5:18 remaining.
Searching for words to explain the blowout after his team kept it close in the previous games against Fordham, Navy coach Pete Herrmann pointed to the Rams' defense.
"They were more aggressive on defense this time," Herrmann said. "They smothered our perimeter guys and made it tough to get the ball inside.
"Pressure on the perimeter, turnovers, three straight blocked shots at one point -- those things were the keys to their defense."
Even the good-luck tie Herrmann's mother gave him for Christmas held no magic. It is a huge, multicolored tie, not in keeping with Herrmann's normally conservative style of dress.
"The tie has worked at times this season," Herrmann said softly, without adding that it didn't work often.
Fordham was led by Jean Prioleau's 18 points. Fred Herzog, who burned Navy for a career high 33 a week ago in Annapolis, added 12 and Dewey Stinso had 11.
Freshman Wes Cooper paced Navy with 12, and sophomore Victor Mickel chipped in 10. Another plebe, Mark Majick, had six points, including one three-point goal to raise his total to 59, one shy of the academy single-season record, shared by Lance Reinhard and Joe Gottschalk,
A year ago, Navy upset top-seeded James Madison in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The Middies went on to lose to George Mason in overtime in the semifinals.
But there was no suggestion of an upset last night once the game was 10 minutes old. Fordham scored 24 of the last 32 points in the first half for a 37-23 bulge.
Herrmann's record after six seasons stands at 63-109. In his first season -- which was David Robinson's last, 1986-87 -- the Middies were 26-6.
Navy hasn't come close to a winning season since. Herrmann's status is uncertain. His contract was extended for one year after