Mids hope experience will weather Crusaders

Team eyes first win against Holy Cross for Patriot League title

Navy notebook

College Basketball

March 08, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When Navy visits Worcester, Mass., tomorrow to play Holy Cross for the Patriot League men's basketball title, the local populace will be digging out from under this week's blizzard.

The Midshipmen have some digging out of their own to do against a team that led the nation in field-goal percentage defense.

Navy is still carrying the scars from last season's 87-61 whipping at Lafayette in the title game and now faces a Crusaders team that has the home-court advantage, two decisive victories in the regular-season series and the big, burly front line that has overwhelmed the league.

"I like to think our guys might be at some advantage because they were in the championship game last year," Navy coach Don DeVoe said. "They know the fervor that is involved. I think a lot of it has to do with what kind of start we have. That really sets the tone for the game."

All-Patriot forward Chris Williams remembers well how Lafayette used the energy of its "Zoo Crew" fan base to frustrate Navy early.

"The fans basically willed that game to them," Williams said. "After their first dunk, I couldn't hear anything for a couple of minutes. I couldn't even hear Reggie's [point guard Reggie Skipworth's] signals. It's the last game and you don't want to lose, but that makes it tough."

DeVoe believes he had a slightly weary team at this point in 2000, one that had been on the road almost constantly for three weeks. "I think all the wheels caught up with us. It's a tremendous advantage to have played the first two games at home this time," he said.

Crusaders rebound

Holy Cross lost its final two regular-season games, but bounced back with a vengeance in the semifinals of the tournament to throttle Lehigh.

Riddled by a raft of injuries in 1999-2000, the Crusaders have engineered one of the biggest reversals in the nation, improving from a 10-18 record to 21-7 and winning their first outright regular-season league crown.

Their lineup includes 7-foot-1, 275-pound Josh Sankes in the middle, 6-8, 220-pound Tim Szatko, the Patriot League Player of the Year at forward and 6-9, 245-pound Patrick Whearty backing up Sankes.

"We like to rebound offensively and they make it tough to get the ball back up into the basket," DeVoe said. "They're very disciplined. They stay on the floor, but our strategy is going to be to take the ball right at them and make them play defense inside."

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