North Carolina bounces Navy Tar Heels, Jamison turn up pressure in 2nd half for 88-52 win

March 13, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Playing on cruise control for the first half, top-ranked North Carolina and All-America forward Antawn Jamison turned up the heat in the second half to breeze to an 88-52 victory over Navy in the opening round of the NCAA East Regional yesterday.

By winning, the Tar Heels set up their first meeting with North Carolina-Charlotte, which defeated Illinois-Chicago, 77-62.

The Midshipmen (19-11), seeded 16th, might still have harbored visions of staging a miracle, trailing 51-41 with 12: 56 remaining. But then the Tar Heels (31-3) got serious and reality took over.

Using their obvious superiority in size and talent, they outscored the Mids 19-2 in the next seven minutes for a 70-43 cushion. The only suspense left was whether North Carolina would beat the 28-point spread.

Navy, making its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament, managed to keep it close throughout the first half by forming a picket around Jamison and forcing the overanxious and somewhat somnambulistic Tar Heels into 12 turnovers.

But this strategy backfired in the second half when North Carolina converted five of eight three-point attempts. Forced to protect the perimeter, it allowed Jamison to find room on the baseline. The few times he missed, Jamison hustled to convert an offensive rebound, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, both game-highs.

Rival forward Hassan Booker, an overachieving 6-3 senior who distinguished himself with 10 points and five rebounds, had called Jamison "just another player" before their initial encounter. But it was just Booker's way of putting on his "game face."

Veteran Navy coach Don DeVoe spoke for all his players when he said, "Jamison is absolutely awesome. He's as quick as any player I've ever seen at shooting the ball and going back and getting it again.

"We did a good job of packing it in against Jamison in the first half, but once Ed Cota and Vince Carter started making threes, there is no way you can expect to beat a team of this caliber."

With Jamison getting strong support defensively from 6-10 senior center Makhtar Ndiaye (13 points and nine rebounds) and 6-9 junior forward Ademola Okaluka, Navy was forced to shoot outside with diminishing results.

The Mids shot 31 percent (11-for-35) in the first half and slumped to 23 percent (9-for-39) in the second half, going long stretches without a decent look at the basket.

"We usually play an inside-out game," said co-captain Michael Heary, who made only four of his 13 shots, attempting several from 30-foot range. "But North Carolina puts so much pressure on the perimeter, it's tough to get the ball down low."

The few times Navy succeeded working the ball into the pivot, 6-foot-11 Josh Williams (1-for-7) and back-up sophomore Sitapha Savane (1-for-4) met only frustration.

"I found out quickly this wasn't the Patriot League," said Savane. "I can usually get the shots I want, but today, it seemed there was almost always someone 6-9 or bigger coming over to help out on defense."

Through most of the first half, the Tar Heels might have thought it was deja vu, reliving their near first-round disaster against Fairfield last March. Navy trailed 34-28 with 1: 19 remaining when a jumper by Cota and a layup by Ndiaye provided some breathing room.

First-year coach Bill Guthridge might also have been thinking of Navy's 14-5 edge in the rivalry between the two schools. The Mids had won the last four games with the last encounter in 1959. But that was pre-Dean Smith.

Once the Tar Heels stopped committing turnovers and rushing shots, the outcome was inevitable.

Guthridge blamed his team's unimpressive first-half performance on an emotional letdown.

"It's always difficult playing a game coming off an emotionally-charged Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, especially when you win it," said Guthridge, who waited 30 years in the wing to get the head job.

Added Carter: "We've got to stay focused from start to finish. In the first half, we tried to go for the jugular. All we had to do was settle down."

Or get the ball in Jamison's hands. In an overpowering three-minute sequence in the second half, the North Carolina native scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds, making his Navy defenders appear almost flat-footed.

It even drew reluctant praise from Booker, who had inadvertently bloodied Jamison's nose in the first half.

"I thought he was a little frustrated in the first half," said Booker. "But he's a great offensive rebounder. He's so quick, and he hustles off the boards. He knows what he can and can't do."

Perhaps Booker summed up Navy's post-game feelings best.

"In my four years at the Naval Academy, I made a trip to Europe and played in two straight NCAA tourneys. There's a lot of great college players in the country who can't say the same."

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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