Navy gets tough Patriot openers

Men and women draw defending champions

College Basketball

January 09, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Naval Academy basketball teams do not enjoy the luxury of easing into their Patriot League schedules this season.

Both the men and women drew the unenviable assignment of opening league play at Holy Cross, which swept the titles in 2001 and are targeted as the teams to topple again.

Tonight, the Navy men go to Worcester, Mass., where they lost a 68-64 overtime heartbreaker to the Crusaders on a snowy evening last March in the Patriot League championship game.

And Navy coach Don DeVoe will forthrightly tell you the squad - 5-10 after losing to nationally ranked Wake Forest on Monday - has not met his expectations.

"We've not developed as much as I'd hoped, and we've struggled in areas where I felt Navy is always a very strong team," said DeVoe. "We lost four starters and this year's team has not been able to put it together.

"I've had to lower the bar a little bit in terms of our rebounding and defense."

DeVoe says he had this team "a little overscheduled" in the preseason. The Midshipmen are 0-8 away from Alumni Hall.

The Navy women went 10-18, including 4-8 in the league, with a freshman-dominated lineup last year, but won eight of 13 in pre-conference play with sophomores Courtney Davidson and Maile Shimoda leading the way.

But they had to confront the league's power last night without their most reliable post player, Adrienne Roseti (leg injury) and become Holy Cross' 55th straight league victim at home, 82-79 in overtime.

"They have so much more experience than us, and they're bigger and have a lot of depth," said Joe Sanchez, the Midshipmen coach. "And in this league, you have to win on the road, and they do that."

On the men's side, the surprises of the nonconference portion of the schedule have been 8-4 Colgate, coached by former Navy assistant Emmett Davis, and a much improved 6-7 Army team, which won in overtime at Brown, a winner over the Midshipmen.

New league member American U., led by former Virginia coach Jeff Jones, provides another intriguing factor, particularly after a pre-Christmas victory at Florida State, conqueror of No. 1 Duke.

But it is still the Crusaders everyone else is aiming for.

"People will be trying to give you their best shot," said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard, who is bemoaning the lack of bench strength and the so-so play of the two returning starters, Tim Szatko and Ryan Serravalle.

"Our younger players haven't adjusted to the intensity level, and we're struggling to find a personality."

There is no such complaining from the Holy Cross women's coach, Bill Gibbons, whose team went 8-4 against a rugged pre-league slate that included Connecticut and an upset victory over Arizona.

"We've played well; we're right on schedule," said Gibbons.

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