Fourth-ranked Syracuse fought off Navy's strong first-half challenge tonight and ended up overwhelming the Midshipmen, 89-67, to win the Carrier Classic college basketball tournament.
Navy Coach Paul Evans had said Friday that he thought the Orangemen, now 5-0, were one of the two best teams in the nation along with No. 1 North Carolina. "I still feel that way tonight," said Evans, whose team's record fell to 4-2 in front of a Carrier Dome crowd of 25,432.
"We played pretty well in the first half, except for the turnovers (14). We outrebounded them and made 50 percent of our shots. But they have so much depth that they wear you out. You can never rest against them. And then in the second half, they shot the lights out against our zone, but we couldn't afford to go man-to-man because they're so much bigger than us."
One of the big people was 6-foot-9 forward Wendell Alexis, who shot over 6-6 freshman counterpart Nathan Bailey for a career-high 23 points to win most valuable player honors.
"Syracuse is so big and strong inside," said Navy's 6-11 center David Robinson, who recovered from a sub-par game Friday to lead Navy with 22 points and 11 rebounds. "They start with (6-10 Rony) Seikaly and then they bring in (6-9 Derek) Brower and (6-9 1/2 Rodney) Walker. And then, Alexis was rebounding so well, too. They just wore us out."
Syracuse, which scored 10 of the first half's last 12 points to lead 41-33 at intermission, kept the pressure on in the second half. After Robinson and Seikaly exchanged blocked shots, the Orange's Howard Triche made a 12-footer, then rebounded at the other end and passed to Dwayne (Pearl) Washington, who passed to Rafael Addison for a layup.
Navy closed within 47-37 on Kylor Whitaker's pump-faked jumper, but Syracuse scored nine points to break the game open. The streak started with Seikaly's dunk off Washington's alley-oop pass. Then Syracuse sandwiched two baskets by Alexis around a breathtaking fastbreak feed from backup guard Greg Monroe to Triche. After Robinson scored on a rebound, Monroe passed to Alexis for a layup. Alexis was fouled, and his shot gave Syracuse a 59-39 lead.
"Greg Monroe was the key to the game," said Syracuse's coach, Jim Boeheim, of the junior who had eight points and eight assists in 13 minutes. "I started off hot and then cooled off, but the other guys picked up the slack right away," said Addison, who had 15 points, five fewer than his average.
With Syracuse leading by 9-7, each team's flashy star started to contribute. Robinson leaped over Seikaly's back for a rebound, drew the foul, and made two foul shots. But Washington threw an alley-oop that Seikaly stuffed, then swished an 18-footer from the key. Robinson scored from the right base line, then Whitaker tied the game at 13 from the same spot.
Addison gave Syracuse the lead with a long jumper, but Robinson spun inside for a basket and Whitaker scored to put Navy ahead, 15-13. As the leaders went, so went the teams, and both squads were hot.
Monroe came in to make two 18-footers, but fellow reserve guard Michael Brown outdid him with two jumpers from 20 feet to give Syracuse a 25-21 advantage. Robinson retied the game at 31 four minutes later with a dunk off an alley-oop feed from Doug Wojick, then the Orangemen scored eight points.