It has been 18 years since a Navy basketball team collected 14 victories in one season. It has been even longer since two Mids put on a show to rival yesterday's exhibition by Kevin Sinnett and Hank Kuzma in an 86-71 rout of Manhattan.
Sinnett hit 13 of 15 field-goal tries, grabbed 10 rebounds, amassed 32 points and limited the Jaspers' explosive Steve Grant to 16. Kuzma, a senior playing his last home game, rolled up a career-high 29 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed off four assists.
Sinnett poured in 24 points in the second half as Navy pulled away from a 40-38 halftime bulge. Sinnett had six of 10 straight Navy points following the intermission, with Kuzma collecting the final two courtesy of a technical foul against Manhattan coach John Powers.
After the Jaspers regrouped, the Mids decisively padded a 59-53 lead with 11 points in a row and once again a technical against Powers contributed. Sinnett and Kuzma collected all 11 and, during a 10 1/2 minute stretch before both left to standing ovations, they accounted for 24 straight Navy points.
The second-half surge was in direct contrast to Navy's most recent game, when it yielded 10 straight second-half points to American University and was blown off the court at Fort Myer."The team understood that we didn't play well there," said Coach Bob Hamilton. "We didn't change anything. We just went out and played with intensity and confidence. We've played seven games in 15 days, and there was flu in the middle, so the loss of strength sapped us. But the physical effort was very good today."
The Mids controlled the boards against the taller Jaspers, and even 6-foot-2 Bob Scott was a major contributor. The senior guard picked off nine and also helped to keep Navy in front with four straight baskets late in the first half.
"The whole team was determined to play a good game for the two seniors," said Sinnett, a 6-6 junior whose weight has dropped 15 pounds, to 205, in three weeks. "I haven't been playing what I'm capable of, and I guess I've hurt the team. But Manhattan is a good team, and beating them gives us a lot of confidence going into Army (at West Point Feb. 25)."
Kuzma, a 6-7 center, weights only 195, after losing 20 pounds this season. But he played a rugged inside game, which he tried modestly to pass over.
"I was lucky the ball was just rolling in my direction," Kuzma said. "If it had rolled the other way I'd just be standing there, with play going to the other end."
Hamilton, however, had a different view: "Hank Kuzma was excellent going to the ball, getting the ball on the offensive boards. His effort on the offensive boards was as good as I've seen anywhere."
While the Mids were boosting their record to 14-10, Manhattan was tumbling to 10-12. It is also noteworthy that a steel sturcture tumbled four months ago, disrupting the construction of the Jaspers' new field house.
"It's rough playing on the road and we play 26 on the road," Powers said. "The kids were coming to me, telling me they were getting fouled inside, and I asked them, 'What can I do?' It doesn't do any good to get technicals."
Manhattan's JoJo Waters hit seven of nine shots in the first half, but he also drew three fouls. So he did not start the second half and, by the time he got in the game, Manhattan was in desperate straits, sinking fast. He couldn't bail the Jaspers out.
Neither Walters nor Grant shot a free throw. Manhattan made 9 of 12, Navy 22 of 29.