Navy takes Lafayette apart in 94-66 win

Roused Mids pull Leopards from Patriot League lead

February 10, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The big match turned out to be a mismatch.

Navy's basketball team meant business last night in a big game, immediately seizing the initiative and never letting go to oust Lafayette from the Patriot League lead with a rousing, 94-66 victory before 3,871 roaring fans at Alumni Hall.

"This team was really wanting this game," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "It was just an impressive win. It's only 1/27th of the season, but it was a big 1/27th. Had we not won, the race for the No. 1 seed was essentially over."

Navy's seventh straight victory was fueled by intense pressure defense, determined rebounding and a surprisingly effective shooting performance by the Midshipmen, who went 23-for-27 from the foul line and managed 18 more shots than the Leopards because of 21 offensive rebounds.

Obviously prepared and intense, Navy (17-5, 7-1) shot to a 17-4 cushion at the start by making seven of its first 11 field-goal attempts, while the Leopards managed just five shots and committed three turnovers.

There was no run forthcoming from the Leopards after that early blitz. The closest they ever closed the gap was to seven (twice in the first half) before the Midshipmen -- who received considerable quality time from their reserve forces -- ran away and hid. The margin ballooned to 73-43 and, by the final five minutes, DeVoe was playing everyone on his bench.

It was an old-fashioned whipping.

"I really didn't expect us to come out and blow them out," said Navy center Sitapha Savane, who contributed 19 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three blocks and two assists. "I thought this would be a hard-fought battle. We were focused the whole time."

Alumni Hall is usually a quiet place, but it was alive for this one after the brigade responded well to a lunchtime request from DeVoe and Savane for support.

"Tonight, the brigade showed up and our guys really respond to support," said DeVoe.

The defending league-champion Leopards (15-6, 6-1) beat Navy, 80-74 (the only loss for the Midshipmen since Dec. 23) in Easton, Pa., and arrived in Annapolis with a seven-game winning streak. But Navy's ball-hawking never allowed them to get into their offense, and they had no sustained run in them.

"Their pressure just put us back on our heels," said Lafayette's Brian Ehlers (18 points), who was the league's Player of the Year last season. "They took us out of everything we wanted to run and we shouldn't let that happen."

If Navy and Lafayette finish in a regular-season tie for first place, the Sagarin ratings will determine who is seeded first and receives the tournament bye. The nature of this Navy win certainly is not going help Lafayette on that front.

The Midshipmen appear to have the upper hand now since Lafayette still must play at a tough arena (Bucknell's) against a team it barely beat at home.

Chris Williams went 12-for-12 from the foul line and topped the Midshipmen with 20 points despite taking a shot from the Leopards' Greg McCleary as he attempted to dunk on a breakaway. Williams required four stitches in his head after banging into the basket support when he fell.

"I thought I was sweating and when I looked into my hands, they were full of blood," he said. "But winning the game is enough for me."

"We were really hyped up for this game," said Savane, who looked at the scoreboard with about 10 minutes left and threw his fist into the air.

LAFAYETTE -- Worthington 2-2 0-0 4, Ciosici 7-9 3-9 17, Bieg 1-5 0-0 3, Whitfield 1-7 0-0 2, Ehlers 5-12 8-8 18, Burke 1-3 6-6 9, Guy 2-4 0-2 4, McCleary 0-2 0-0 0, Kuberka 0-1 0-0 0, Bonney 1-1 0-0 3, Barr 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 23-51 17-25 66.

NAVY -- Williams 4-10 12-12 20, Reeder 5-10 4-4 14, Savane 9-16 1-2 19, Skipworth 2-3 2-2 7, J.Williams 4-5 2-2 12, Worthing 2-3 0-0 5, Jeanpierre 2-5 0-0 5, Ebong 0-2 0-0 0, McCreary 2-2 0-1 4, Toton 0-3 2-2 2, Cunningham 2-5 0-2 4, Barker 0-3 0-0 0, Long 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 33-69 23-27 94.

Halftime--Navy 44-31. 3-point goals--Lafayette 3-14 (Bonney 1-1, Bieg 1-3, Burke 1-3, McCleary 0-1, Whitfield 0-6). Navy 5-12 (Williams 2-2, Skipworth 1-2, Worthing 1-2, Jeanpierre 1-2, Barker 0-1, C.Williams 0-3). Rebounds--Lafayette 25 (Ehlers 5), Navy 44 (Williams 8, Savane 8). Assists--Lafayette 11 (Bieg 3, Burke 3), Navy 19 (Skipworth 5). Total fouls--Lafayette 20, Navy 21. A--3,871.

Pub Date: 2/10/00

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