Navy's starting five played in lackluster fashion in the second half and its reserves were little better than erratic, but the Midshipmen managed to beat Fairfield, 95-82, tonight.
Navy (17-3) scored the first eight points and led, 24-6, with 11:49 left in the first half as Vernon Butler and David Robinson controlled both ends of the floor. And 2 1/2 minutes later, the Midshipmen had a 38-12 advantage, forcing Fairfield Coach Terry O'Connor to call his second timeout.
But the situation didn't immediately improve for the Stags. Five points by Kylor Whitaker (24 points) helped Navy to its biggest lead of the game, 43-14, before Navy Coach Paul Evans began substituting.
The departure of Robinson and starting guards Doug Wojcik and Cliff Rees breathed new life into the Stags. Facing James Reed, Carey Manhertz and Mike Kurka -- who collectively had 39 points and 28 rebounds before tonight -- must have seemed like a picnic.
A layup by Tim O'Toole and two free throws by Aaron Brown brought Fairfield to 52-35.
Manhertz hit a fadeway jumper in the lane, making the score 55-37. After a jump shot by Tony George and two steals by A.J. Wynder and one by Ed Golden that led to easy baskets, the Stags trailed by a mere 55-45 at halftime.
"We played great for the first 10 or 15 minutes," Evans said. "The second team hasn't played that much, and Terry is a good friend of mine. We looked real bad (late in the first half), and a few of our guys made them look real good."
Its confidence restored, Fairfield scored the first four points of the second half on baskets by center Jeff Gromos. Robinson made two free throws and Butler scored on a nice pass from Cliff Rees.
Wynder then brought the Stags to within four. First, he was fouled by Butler as he drove, and made two free throws. Then he slapped the ball away from Robinson, allowing O'Toole to score. Next, Wynder stole the ball from Whitaker and scored. At this point, Navy's first team -- which had so dominated the first half -- appeared sluggish.
The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes, and O'Toole's two free throws cut the Midshipmens' lead to 71-68 with 10:11 left.
Here, overzealousness on the part of O'Connor perhaps cost his team the game. After O'Toole's second free throw, the Stags went into a full-court press, which Navy handled easily as Butler fed Whitaker, who lofted a pass to Robinson for a dunk.
Whitaker hit his last nine shots and finished with 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Robinson had 17 points and eight rebounds.
Asked about Evans' mass substitutions, O'Connor said, "Paul was very kind. But we cut it to six and we were right on schedule and then we made two costly turnovers."
O'Toole had 19 points to lead Fairfield (8-12), which became the first team this year to shoot at least 50 percent against Navy, making 32 of 64. Navy, which has won 14 of its last 15 overall and 37 of its last 40 at Halsey Fieldhouse, shot 73 percent for the game (37 of 51) and 79 percent in the second half.