Navy Beats Howard to Earn First Win

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008

While learning to score consistently without one of its most productive players in program history, Navy will need to lean on its defense to win games early in this transitional season. So it was yesterday at Alumni Hall as the Midshipmen blended defensive pressure and sufficient offense in the second half to turn a five-point deficit into a 66-55 victory over Howard.

Navy (1-1) did not concede a field goal in the final nine-plus minutes and outscored the Bison 17-1 down the stretch.

"Our defense was good all game," Midshipmen Coach Billy Lange said. "We need to do that because we are still finding our offensive harmony. I think it is going to take a little bit of time. Right now, our focus is just on our defense, and I think that is what kept it going at that point."

Two days after an 86-68 loss to short-handed Towson, Navy continued to find its way in the absence of Greg Sprink, the program's third all-time leading scorer who, as a senior last season, was the Patriot League player of the year. The Midshipmen shot just 34.5 percent overall against the Bison (1-1), but scored on six consecutive possessions during a 12-0 run to build a 61-54 lead with 5 minutes 18 seconds remaining.

Junior guard Chris Harris had 22 points and freshman guard Jordan Sugars added 12 points and six rebounds in 16 reserve minutes before 1,130 spectators.

Senior forward Randy Hampton had 15 points for the Bison, who, in last year's meeting at Burr Gymnasium, scored the final 10 points for a 75-65 victory.

But on this day, senior guard Eugene Myatt, Howard's most dangerous scorer, missed all 11 field goal attempts and the Bison made just 12 of 24 free throws in their first game since surprising Oregon State at home Friday night.

Attempting to explain his team's meltdown, Coach Gil Jackson said: "We have a chemistry problem when we have certain players on the floor. They don't play well together. They are older players, and the younger players defer to them sometimes, and I've got to correct that. I don't know whether if it's going to be [the veterans] don't play or if the chemistry gets flowing with them in there. My wife is going to hammer me because she is going to say, 'Why did you put such-and-such back in there?' "

Trailing by three at halftime, the Bison went on a 16-7 run, capped by Myatt's two free throws, to build a 45-39 lead. Ahead by five with 9:15 left, however, they proceeded to miss nine consecutive shots, make 1 of 3 free throws and commit six turnovers, which included two botched alley-oop attempts and an offensive foul.

Sugars and senior guard Kaleo Kina had four points apiece during the 12-0 spurt, and after a dry spell of their own, the Midshipmen made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 64 seconds.

"We came out and showed that we can stay together even when things are not going our way," said Harris, who had just nine points in the opener. "We just fed off each other."

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