Fourth-ranked DeMatha discovered it can dominate a game with all-America center Jerrod Mustaf sitting on the bench in foul trouble.

The Stags played perhaps their best defensive game of the young season, limiting visiting Ireton to two field goals over a 13-minute span, and had no trouble recording a 70-40 win last night in the Metro Conference opener for both teams.

"We played great pressure defense, forcing 16 first-half turnovers," said DeMatha Coach Morgan Wootten. "As long as we play defense that way, we'll be okay. Our offense was poor; everything we got came off our defense."

Mustaf, a 6-foot-10 senior, left two minutes into the game after picking up two fouls. He didn't return until the third quarter.

"I think when Jerrod went out, the guys picked up the defense," Wootten said. "If they can play that hard when he is out there, then we'll have something going. They proved they can play without him. One day, they'll have too."

As far as Ireton Coach Paul DeStephano was concerned, Mustaf, who had 11 points, could have remained on the court. His replacement, 6-8 Ted Jeffries, did a fine job on the boards and on defense.

"You get these hungry guys who come in and have the game of their lives," DeStephano said. "He {Jeffries} did that. I would have preferred Mustaf playing. We couldn't get anything to go right. I was surprised we trailed by only 14 at the half."

The Cardinals (8-5) obviously left their offense and confidence in Wheeling, W.Va., where they won a Christmas tournament last week. Senior Horace Scruggs, who had 40 points in the title game, including 25 points and all 11 of his team's field goals in the second half, was covered well by Bobby Hill and Jeffries last night. Scruggs finished with only eight points on four of 14 shooting. He also made six turnovers.

When Mustaf departed, DeMatha (10-2) led, 7-4. But the Stags began forcing mistakes and broke the game open. Jason Bishop had five points and point guard Reggie Veney finished the period with two breakaway layups for a 16-8 lead.

Ireton made only one of 11 field goal tries and lost the ball eight more times. Doug John had six points, Hill a layup and Rod Balanis two free throws as the Stags expanded their lead to 26-10 midway through the period.

DeMatha's lead reached 23 points in the third period. The Cardinals continued their shooting woes and with Mustaf, Jeffries and Hill dominating the boards the Stags got numerous second-shot opportunities. Mustaf had three baskets, Hill two layups and Bishop six more points to make it 46-23, with about a minute to play in the third quarter.

Ireton made only six of 31 field goal attempts in the middle two periods.

"We did a good job on defense," said Veney, who had nine points, five steals, two assists and drew two fouls. "We needed to see how well we could play without Jerrod. The day will come when we have to play without him. Our offense wasn't sharp tonight. It was cold outside and we were cold."

DeStephano couldn't find too many positive things to dwell on.

"It's a game I won't lose any sleep over," he said. "We just told the kids to forget about it now and start thinking about our next game Friday against Carroll."