ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 20 -- American University, which saw its season turn around when it discovered depth on its bench, was sparked by its reserves again tonight at Halsey Field House as the Eagles won their sixth straight game, 69-58, and ended Navy's eight-game winning streak.
American's bench provided 12 points from junior Dale Spears, eight points and six rebounds from junior Clarence Ingram and nine points and nine rebounds from senior Andy Bon Salle as AU improved to 13-12 overall and at 8-4 stayed within reach of Richmond in the Colonial Athletic Association race.
Navy, which dating back to 1984-85 had won 25 consecutive February games, fell to 11-13 overall, 6-6 in the CAA. The Midshipmen, who came into the game with a 32-11 series edge over American including wins in the last nine meetings, dominated the Eagles inside in a 75-60 victory earlier this year.
"We have gotten over some injuries and now that we have more players, we can go man-to-man defensively with more people and it makes us less predictable," said American Coach Ed Tapscott in explaining the difference in the Eagles. "Our bench has keyed this team and that's why we have won six in a row."
Mike Sampson led the Eagles with 18 points and Mike Sumner had 13. The pair combined for 27 first-half points as American shot 68 percent from the floor to take a 37-29 lead.
In the second half, Sampson and Sumner scored only two points. American's bench, which had outscored opposing reserves, 181-83, in the previous five games, outscored Navy's substitutes, 29-6, tonight.
"I don't think our bench contributed very much and American outplayed us on both ends of the floor," said Navy Coach Pete Herrmann. "Once they took the lead, they kept their composure. American really outplayed us early, and we expended so much coming back, we didn't have much left at the end."
The Eagles took a 39-29 lead on Sumner's basket to open the second half, but Navy immediately charged back behind the play of guard Mel Davis (10 points).
Navy took a 50-48 lead as Bobby Jones (St. John's High School) made a three-point shot as the 45-second buzzer sounded with 11:05 to go. From that point, American outscored the Midshipmen, 69-58.
Ingram gave American the lead for good on a three-point shot from the right side for a 53-51 tally with 8:59 to go. He made a foul jumper with 7:37 left for a 55-51 lead and American, taking advantage of Navy's problem of having all five its starters in foul trouble, continued to stretch to lead.
Spears made two free throws for a 64-58 lead with 35 seconds left to end Navy's fading hopes.
"They call us the 'Comeback Crew,' " said Spears of his fellow reserves. "We have some horses on the bench. Taps has three or four guys who can go in do the job by pounding people."
Another factor in the game was Sampson's defensive effort on Navy wing guard Cliff Rees. The Midshipmen's leading scorer finished with 11 points, one less than teammate Matt Nordmann, but was held to five shots from the floor (making three).
American, which shot only 30 percent in its loss to Navy at Bender Arena, shot 56 percent tonight.