Second-half spurt lifts Navy over VMI

January 10, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

Coming off a frustrating loss to Bucknell in its Patriot League opener Saturday, the Naval Academy basketball team could not have found a more suitable opponent than Virginia Military Institute, which had not beaten the Midshipmen in 19 previous meetings.

Navy (7-5) kept this perfect record alive with a 101-83 victory at Alumni Hall last night, but it was hardly as easy as the final score indicates.

The Mids trailed the Keydets 49-48 at halftime before coach Don DeVoe made some adjustments.

Navy outscored VMI 23-6 in the first eight minutes of the second half to take a 71-55 lead and were never threatened.

The Mids got another outstanding performance from freshman guard Brian Heary, who scored a game-high 26 points. He also stretched his consecutive free-throw streak to 25 before missing two straight in the final minute.

Navy received solid efforts from senior center Wes Cooper (16 points, nine rebounds) and sophomore freshman guard Greg Stephens, who made all three of his field-goal attempts and provided solid backup support to Brian Walker in running the offense in the second half.

VMI, which had gained valuable experience in its most recent losses to basketball powers North Carolina, Virginia and Alabama, played a spirited first half behind the leadership of junior point guard Bobby Prince (21 points, eight assists).

The Keydets overcame a 12-2 deficit to move ahead 20-18 and kept the Mids off balance the rest of the first half with their full-court press, strong offensive rebounding and accurate perimeter shooting from Aron Buss and Bryan Woolsey.

But that changed in the second half when Navy increased its defense, stopped Prince's penetration and limited VMI to one shot a possession.

"I thought we played a magnificent second half," said DeVoe.

"We made some defensive adjustments and stopped trying to fight over the picks to get to Prince. It kept him from passing to Buse and Woolsey for three-pointers."

Navy also made timely adjustments on offense in the second half, concentrating on getting the ball down low to Cooper and Larry Green, both effective post-up players.

"Coach keeps reminding us that this is our bread-and-butter," said Stephens. "We have to get the ball inside before we start trying to score from outside."

This strategy worked to perfection. Cooper and Green accounted for 13 of Navy's first 15 points in the second half to forge a 63-52 lead. After Buse ended this run with a three-pointer, Heary came off the bench to make another three-pointer and then drive for a three-point play.

"Our two freshmen -- Heary and Stephens -- gave us a tremendous lift when we needed it tonight," said DeVoe. "Heary's shooting kept us from being blown out in the first half, and Stephens gave us great floor leadership in the second half.

"When you have two kids like that, you kind of overlook the fact they're just plebes."

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