For the second time this season, Navy's basket ball team took American University star forward Russell (Boo) Bowers out of the game and walloped the Eagles.
Tonight, the final score was 79-59 at Halsey Field House and, though Bowers finished with 19 points and surpassed the 1,000-point career plateau, he was not a factor against a team that had lost six of its previous seven games.
The Navy strategy started with Kevin Sinnett overplaying the 6-foot-5 sophomore Bowers and a guard dropping back to help out, in effect taking away Bowers' baseline moves. Bowers had scored only 10 points by the time the Mids (10-12) opened a 51-34 lead with just under 13 minutes to play.
AU Coach Gary Williams also had a strategy to stop Sinnett, Navy's career leading scorer and a player the AU rookie coach says, "We can't handle."
The 3-2 zone defense collapsed around Sinnett when the ball went to the 6-foot-7 senior inside, leaving the outside wide open. Guard Chuck Greene sank a 20-footer on the first shot of the game and he was off to a career-high 25 points.
Forward Jack Stumborg, another good perimeter shooter, benefited from AU's slowness to react and made six straight first-half shots. Reserve guard Kevin Cotherman, with only two points all season while coming back from a broken collarbone, connected on three straight first-half bombs and did not miss a shot all night, finishing with a career-high 12 points.
In the first half, 10 of Navy's 17 baskets came from 18 feet or more.
So, it did not mean much to the Eagles, 13-11, that they held Sinnett to 13 points. He still drew Williams' praise.
"We can't handle Sinnett. He does an excellent job against us," Williams said. "What stands out is his passing. He finds the open man. That's the sign of a great player.
"We were conscious of Sinnett. He got 30 against us last time. We didn't want to get beat by him again. We sagged in. But we could have gotten back. I was impressed by Navy. They shot well from outside. But I was disappointed with our effort."
At one point, Williams called a first-half timeout and, with a sparse crowd of 805, could be heard yelling to his players as they huddled, "You just let them shoot. Do they let you shoot? No."
Later, Williams screamed at official Ernie Cage and drew a technical foul, a tactic he admitted afterward was "a last resort" effort at injecting life in his team. It was to no avail.
Bowers sat out one five-minute span of the second half, "just trying to settle him down," according to Williams.
"He's had three bad nights all year (two against Navy)," Williams said. "People forget he's only a 20-year-old sophomore. It's an outstanding accomplishment he got his 1,000th point so fast."
Navy Coach Bob Hamilton was jubilant. saying, "It's good to win. It seems like it's been a while. Defensively we went with a man to man and then switched to zone, and that kept us out of foul trouble. We've had a tendency to foul recently."
For AU, the game ended mercifully a minute early. With Navy's Myron Simons shooting a foul shot with 1:11 to play, a minute mysteriously disappeared from the clock, reading 0:11. The coaches huddled after time expired and decided to forget replaying the minute.