Old Dominion came to Halsey Field House today bearing a low basketball profile, following its second loss of the season to hated rival Virginia Commonwealth. Navy, conversely, was riding high after its surprise conquest of American University.
Those circumstances lasted as long as the opening tap, which the Mids' 6-foot-6 Myron Simons controlled from the Monarchs' 6-10 Mark West. Navy's Jim Kuzma missed a driving layup, West rejected Gary Price's rebound and the teams moved to the other end. There Old Dominion's first shot was good, by its lone senior, Bobby Vaughn.
The Monarchs went on to sink 13 of their first 15 shots from the floor in building a 27-13 lead that left the Mids gasping. By game's end, it was 72-63 and Old Dominion possessed its 17th straight victory over ECAC South competition.
Old Dominion, in beating Navy for the fourth straight time, boosted its record to 16-7 and delighted a large number of ODU fans in the crowd of 2,200, biggest home turnout of the Naval Academy season.
Sophomore guard David Brooks emerged as Navy's only double-figure scorer, 20 points, although his shooting was not up to his splendid overall floor game. The Mids are 8-14 with only three games remaining.
A year ago, Navy exercised ball control to carry Old Dominion into overtime in the final of the ECAC South tournament. This time the Mids chose to run and shoot, and they frequently created scoring opportunities. The problem was the intimidation posed by the presence underneath of West, NCAA shot-blocking leader, and 6-10 Dutchman Bert Kragtwiik. It helped hold Navy to 28.2 percent shooting (11 for 39) in the first half.
Navy set up some excellent passes underneath and fought hard to grab offensive rebounds. But its shooting was forced and inaccurate. Bill Freitag twice threw wild air balls from close range and Price, three for 15 in the game, missed three layups in a space of five seconds. West blocked six Navy shots, had 17 rebounds and was the game's dominant figure despite scoring only nine points.
"Mark West was the big factor in the game," said Old Dominion Coach Paul Webb. "His shot blocking, rebounding and intimidation were very important.
"I thought we played a great first half. We didn't play that well in beating De Paul. We knew we couldn't keep up that kind of shooting (70.4 percent). The second half was a very physical and agressive half of basketball. We needed to make our free throws and we did. They (the Mids) don't pack it up and leave the ship."
Down, 56-35, with 10 minutes left, Navy could ahve packed it in. Instead, the Mids battled to the wire, coming as close as 66-59, although they never threatened to catch up.
During the last three minutes, the Mids used up four timeouts after scoring baskets and repeatedly fouled as soon as Old Dominion put the ball in play. The Monarchs, however, made 10 of their last 12 free throws to maintain command.