Michael Heary is Navy's biggest offensive threat, and when he missed the Midshipmen's game against Rice with an illness on Monday, they immediately fell behind by 16 points and lost by 17.
Last night at Alumni Hall, Heary returned to equal his career high of 31 points and Navy ended a four-game losing streak by beating Harvard, 66-63.
"I think I got some food poisoning [at Rice, a 69-52 defeat]," said Heary. "When we only lost by 17, I feel like I let the team down a little bit. But you can only play when you're healthy."
Navy (7-6) got off to a 15-3 lead against the Crimson, which won this game by a point last season.
But Harvard fought back to tie it at 29 with a 9-3 run at the start of the second half climaxed by Chris Grancio's three-pointer.
Then, Heary, a junior from Fredonia, N.Y., went to work again. He scored 10 of the Midshipmen's next 14 points to re-establish a comfortable lead, 43-34.
The Crimson, shooting 9-for-14 from three-point range, countered several times to pull to within six points, but never got over the mountain.
"This was a real, real important win for us," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "Harvard is expected to contend in the Ivy League and they've got a lot of experienced players."
Heary previously scored 31 against Army as a freshman. Last night, he hit 9 of 13 from the field and failed to surpass the career high when he missed two free throws in the final minute.
"I tried to drive the ball more tonight," he said. "This team wasn't as big on the perimeter and we were trying to get me to the foul line.
"The three-point shot will always be there and we also ran some nice play action to get me the ball where I could score."
Defense dominated in the first half and Heary admitted: "I got a little tired after the first few minutes, probably because I didn't play in the last game. Defense is always going to be the thing that helps us."
Senior forward Michael Green was assigned to track Harvard point guard Tim Hill and restricted him to four first-half shots.
"Michael was a big key for us," said DeVoe. "He steps forward and defends those guys that can score. Hill is very much the head that drives Harvard and Michael assumed his role."
Heary scored seven points as Navy rationed the Crimson to a three-pointer by Michael Scott and went up by 12 at the start.
Hill, who attended DeMatha High, led four Harvard double-figure scorers with 14 points, and the three-point percentage (64 percent) set a Crimson record.
Navy launches its Patriot League schedule Wednesday at archrival Army.
Pub Date: 1/03/97