Navy's poise outlasts UMBC's youth, 76-64 Down by 14 early, Mids score last 10 points in win

November 26, 1997|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

UMBC was cruising. Kennedy Okafor was a bear on the boards, Tim Hyland hit a three and a couple of foul shots and the rest of the Retrievers' youth movement was pitching in admirably.

Up by 14 points after 11 minutes, suddenly, well, who knows what happened?

Navy started to push. The Mids got the lead by halftime, stretched it and lost it before scoring the final 10 points of the game and winning, 76-64.

"They maintained their composure when things weren't going well for them. Then their senior leadership shone through," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said of the Mids' comeback.

At the same time, it wasn't so much what Navy was doing, but what UMBC wasn't. "Yeah, I thought we let them back in more than anything they did," Sullivan said of his team's ruinous stretch that saw the home team go on a 19-4 tear.

A bad pass, a steal, a couple of ill-advised shots, two turnovers and an air ball had spectators thinking that perhaps Sully's young lions might never score again.

"When you're starting as many freshmen as we are [four]," said the coach, "you kind of hope they can learn to ride over rough spots like that. We have a couple of kids who can [guards Terence Ward and Hyland], but when the game got physical, we got rattled some."

Still, UMBC (1-2) hung tough, sort of hanging around six points in arrears until Navy pulled out by 10 points (60-50) and the visitors mounted another push.

In some respects, it was like a pro game with mood swings all over the place. UMBC went on a 13-2 run early and Navy (2-1) countered with a 15-2 blitz of its own. Navy pushed out with an 8-2 run midway in the second half only to have UMBC pull to within a pair at 66-64 when Okafor scored his 21st point on 9-for-10 shooting inside with just under two minutes remaining.

Then, what Sullivan feared would happen all evening, happened. "Hassan Booker took over. That's the kind of player Hassan is. The game's there and he takes it over with hard work and hustle," said the coach. Not to mention muscle.

The 230-pound senior forward, playing much larger than his 6 feet 3, hit a reverse layup. Then, he not only saved a ball from going out of bounds with a dive, he got the ball back and put it in. Then he hit a straight layup, all in succession. "Kennedy Okafor was there," noted Sullivan, "but he knew he had four fouls."

Booker's baskets were all scored within a minute. UMBC now had to press and foul. And the Navy player the Retrievers were fouling was Michael Heary. The senior guard finished the evening 9-for-10 from the free-throw line while scoring a game-high 24 points.

Besides leading his team in points, Okafor led all rebounders with 10. Navy out-rebounded UMBC, 44-36, and had a picnic on its offensive backboard with 19. That helps when you shoot under 40 percent as a team.

Prior to starting the season a week ago, Sullivan mused, "I'd be happier in coming years when we can bring in fewer players and bring them along gradually."

Besides starting four freshmen and a sophomore with little previous experience, UMBC's sixth man is a frosh, too.

As coaches are wont to say, it's going to take awhile. But not as long as you might think.

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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