The Navy women's basketball team, experiencing a severe case of opening-game jitters in the Patriot League tournament, overcame a horrendous first half to rout Colgate, 72-46, at Alumni Hall yesterday.
The Midshipmen (22-5, 10-2) made only eight of 35 shots in the first half and missed their first 14 three-point attempts but managed to lead 23-22.
Navy put it all together in the second half. The Mids shot 53 percent (20 of 38) and held Colgate without a field goal for the first five minutes to pad their lead to 32-24. The margin ballooned to 53-36 with 7: 34 left, and the Red Raiders (10-17, 1-10) were finished for the year.
Navy will play Lafayette in the semifinals at 7 tonight. The Leopards beat Army, 64-47.
How bad was the first half? Count the ways. At the 10-minute mark, the two teams had combined for 11 points and 10 turnovers. Navy made four of its first 26 shots and went one six-minute stretch without a basket.
Colgate led 22-17 before the Mids ended the first half with a 6-0 run.
"That was the most frustrating first 12 minutes we played all season," said Navy captain Becky Dowling. "I looked up at the scoreboard and we were losing 9-7.
"Yes, the first half was real ugly, but we were awesome in the second half. And that's how we have to play the rest of the tourney."
Navy coach Joe Sanchez preached patience at halftime, knowing things could only get better.
"They were packing in their zone," he said. "Once we started making some perimeter shots, Colgate had to come out to defend us, and that allowed Laurie Coffey and Erica Hayes to score inside."
Navy attempted a tournament-record 30 three-pointers and converted only six. But Sanchez encouraged his guards to keep firing away.
"The worst thing is to lose confidence," he said. "The gaps were there. We just had to keep reversing the ball to find the gaps in the zone. If we missed, we knew we could crash the boards hard."
Said Dowling (3-for-11), who has been battling a shooting slump: "We just kept taking the open shots. If we don't, I know Coach Sanchez will take us out."
Despite the shaky start, the Mids got strong performances from their three All-Patriot League picks -- Coffey, Dowling and Hayes, their key frontcourt reserve.
Coffey, a junior center, used her post-up moves to score a game-high 27 points and grab 16 rebounds.
Hayes, a sophomore, chipped in with 16 points, including 10 straight to break things open in the second half. She added seven rebounds in 17 busy minutes. Dowling matched Coffey with 16 rebounds, two shy of the tournament record.
Navy dominated the boards, setting a tournament record with 57 rebounds. Colgate had only 30.
Lafayette (15-12, 7-5) jumped out to a 10-0 lead against Army (7-20, 3-9) and never trailed in its opening round victory.
Defending champion Lehigh fought off a late rally by Bucknell (12-14, 6-6) to win the third quarterfinal game, 59-55.
Pub Date: 2/28/98