Mids pull inside job to get first victory

Navy tops Air Force, 93-78, as 49-35 rebounding edge proves to be the difference

November 28, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Navy's basketball team got the opponent and the game it needed yesterday at Alumni Hall.

Taller and more muscular than their Air Force counterparts, the Midshipmen dominated inside and were never seriously threatened in a 93-78 victory, their first of the season.

"After the last three games, we said enough was enough," said Navy center Sitapha Savane, who scored a career-high 25 points, blocked five shots and helped the Mids overwhelm Air Force on the boards by 14 rebounds with eight rebounds of his own.

"We talked it out last week, and we knew what we were doing wrong. It was time to go out and get it done. And we had lost to Air Force two years in a row."

"It was nice to see these guys to be able to rally. We didn't play well the game before this one [a 58-52 home loss to Richmond], and this was a big game against an archrival," Navy coach Don DeVoe said.

Navy (1-3) eased into a 20-point halftime lead by restricting the Falcons to 31 percent shooting, forcing 11 turnovers and using Savane, Chris Williams and Robert Reeder to clean the boards. It didn't help Air Force that its No. 2 scorer, Jarvis Croff, was in early foul trouble and scored just two first-half points.

After the break, Croff (26 points) hit a succession of three-pointers, bringing Air Force to within 75-62 at one point, but Navy freshman Scott Long (14 points in 18 minutes) blunted the surge by making a three-pointer, and the Falcons never really challenged.

"They competed very well early and beat us up on the inside and the boards," Air Force coach Reggie Minton said. "We got off slow, and I don't think we ever established anything inside. That allowed them to come out and pressure the perimeter."

Air Force (1-3) depends heavily on the long-range shooting of Lawrence Yazzie, who took only five three-point attempts and finished with seven points.

It was a physical encounter, with Navy going to the foul line 45 times and making 30 (66.7 percent) to improve on its 57.6 percent season average. From the field, the Mids shot 57.7 percent, far better than in any previous outing.

"We knew Air Force was not going to lay down their guns," DeVoe said. "Croff and [Tyron] Wright [26 points] are a pair of street fighters. But our defense was really good the first half. We got the upper hand and never let them back in it. We needed a game like this to really get us going."

Five Mids scored in double figures, with Savane, Reeder and Chris Williams all getting eight rebounds.

The win broke a two-game Falcons winning win streak in the series.

Navy meets another military foe tomorrow night in Annapolis, facing the Coast Guard Academy.

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