Navy dunks Bucknell to clinch Patriot tie Fiery Walker leads way to an 18-0 run, 78-67 win

February 16, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

It is hardly a coincidence that Navy's basketball team has compiled a 65-32 record since coach Don DeVoe made then-freshman Brian Walker his starting point guard in the winter of 1993.

And Walker, a fiery 5-foot-8 playmaker who was appearing in his final regular-season home game at Alumni Hall yesterday, gave a highly vocal crowd of 3,732 a special memory in leading the Midshipmen to a 78-67 victory over Bucknell.

Walker, who scored a season-high 13 points, ignited an 18-0 run early in the first half that gave Navy a 20-7 advantage it never relinquished in a showdown for the Patriot League lead.

The Bison could come no closer than 67-60 with a late second-half spurt led by junior guard J. R. Holden, who scored 24.

With their sixth consecutive win and 10th in the past 12 games, the Mids (17-8, 9-2) clinched at least a tie for the conference title.

The Mids still could tie Bucknell (14-10, 7-3), which has league games remaining against Holy Cross and Army. But they can win the title outright by beating Holy Cross on the road Saturday.

DeVoe paid tribute to his two graduating seniors -- Walker and defensive specialist Michael Green -- for putting the Mids in an enviable position.

"This basketball program was in the doldrums until I made Brian a starter four years ago," DeVoe said. "Today, Brian did an absolutely great job controlling the game, offensively and defensively. He did an excellent job controlling Holden for most of the game."

Three weeks ago at Bucknell, Holden burned the Mids for 30 points as the Bison won, 69-55.

"We let him get off quick that day and he must have hit his first five shots," Walker said. "Today, we applied a lot more pressure from the start."

Holden was held to a modest seven points in the first half, and scored 10 after Navy had pushed its lead to 50-35 in the second half.

But from Bucknell coach Pat Flannery's viewpoint, the game was decided with Navy's 18-0 scoring spree.

Said Flannery: "They did a good job of rotating the ball and had a bunch of guys making good post-up moves. On our end of the floor, they were so tenacious, we weren't even getting to touch the ball."

Flannery constantly berated the officials but afterward chose to laud Navy's aggressiveness.

"It's just the way they play," he said, noting the smaller Mids' 38-26 rebounding edge. "They're just relentless. They do some rough things in there, but a big part is their heart. Thank God, they have that attitude because they're military."

DeVoe found some surprising offensive weapons to compensate for an off-day by scoring leader Michael Heary, who was held to 12 points -- almost six below his season average.

The biggest surprise was junior center Mike Palumbo, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds -- both career highs.

Palumbo was a key contributor in the first half, scoring eight in the 18-0 spurt. Palumbo has started the past 13 games, with Navy going 11-2 in that stretch.

Junior swingman Matt Sladky also provided a lift, coming off the bench to score 15 in 25 minutes.

After Bucknell closed to 69-62 with 1: 55 remaining, breakaway ++ layups by Hassan Booker and Sladky put the game out of reach.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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