Coach Bob Hamilton's ambition is to boost Navy basketball to the level where the Mids can be competitive force in the NCAA Tournament. Today Navy played Temple, a tourney team from last season, and had an excellent chance to win.
The Mids did not however, because they shot 35 percent, committed 25 turnovers and managed only seven points in the last 10 minutes of the game. A 43-38 Navy lead therefore disintegrated into a 55-50 victory for the Owls from Philadelphia.
Twice in the second half, Navy held seven-point margins, at 37-30 and 41-34. However, Temple Coach Don Casey changed his zone into a 1-3 setup that reached far out on the courts and trapped the Mids in the corners. One giveaway followed another as Navy was charged with 16 turnovers in the second half.
Casey was delighted to accept the victory, the 100th of his coaching career, and Hamilton graciously visited the Temple dressing room afterward to present him the game ball. Casey had little else to be joyful about, since the unimpressive Owls committed 26 turnovers themselves.
"Our team is so young and this was the first foreign gym for some," Casey said. "When you win on the road, especially here, you take it, call your congressman and tell him how well you did, then go home."
"We took ourselves out of game with our mistakes," Hamilton said. "Whether we stayed close is not the issue, because we did not play well. We just didn't pass and catch the ball properly. It wasn't a well-played game by either team."
One player who stood out was John Geshay, Navy's 6-foot-7 junior center. Geshay collected 13 points in the first half, matching his previous one-game high, and expanded it to 16 before he ran into foul trouble.
He took the fifth on a charge with 5:22 remaining and Temple ahead, 45-44. Not only was Geshay the game's high scorer, he led in rebounds with nine as the Mids earned a 31-23 board edge over the taller Owls.
Plebe David Brooks, the hero of Navy's victory over American, popped in two 30-footers as the Mids built a 26-21 lead in the first half, forcing Temple to go man-for-man. With the defensive switch, Hamilton yanked Brooks and went to a spread offense, which succeeded merely in permitting Temple to tie the game while Navy went scoreless for five minutes.
"Brooks had only played the point against a zone and not against a man-to-man, so I took him out," Hamilton said. "Obviously, if we played it over I'd probably leave him in."
Despite that loss of momentum, the Mids were able to rebuild their margin and went up by seven in the second half on two keyhole jumpers by Jan Myers.
After Meyers connected with 9:50 left, boosting Navy to a 43-38 lead, the Mids went 11 possessions without a field goal.
Keith Parham, the front man in the Temple zone, embarrassed all of Navy's ballhandlers with repeated steals and it was 51-46 before Greene ended the two-pointer dearth after 8 minutes 13 seconds of nothing but three free throws.
In the last minute, with Temple three points ahead Myron Simons forced a jump ball but lost it; the Mids' Chuck Greene stole the ball only to have Rich Davidson mishandle a Bruce Grooms pass, the Greene stole it again and blew a layup.
It was not the way to impress those NCAA selectors.