The University of San Diego's inside game proved more reliable than the Naval Academy's outside game Thursday. The result was a 93-76 Torero victory.
It was the fifth consecutive victory for USD (8-3), setting up the Toreros for their toughest trip of the season--a visit to Arizona State Saturday, followed by a game at Colorado Tuesday.
Five USD players scored in double figures, led by the inside tandem of Kelvin Woods (21) and Brooks Barnhard (career-high 17). Guard Wayman Strickland scored a season-high 19.
But Navy didn't go down easily. In an entertaining game before 2,314 at USD's Sports Center, the Midshipmen attempted 28 three-pointers and made 11 and led for much of the first half. They fell behind by as many as 17 points in the second and pulled to within eight before the Toreros clinched it.
USD Coach Hank Egan, a 1960 graduate of the Naval Academy, was pleased with the victory and proud of his alma mater. "That team plays as hard as any we face all year," he said.
"They're a young team and they are a pain in the butt--they'll go away, then next thing you know, they're back within eight. I got nervous in the second half."
USD found itself in deep at the start as the Midshipmen came out firing three-pointers. In a fast-paced first half, the Middies made seven three-point baskets and built several five-point leads behind guards Mark Mayjik, John Haase and Michael Burd, who combined for 28 points and six three-pointers. The Middies shot from three-point range 19 times in the half.
USD's answer, for a while, was Strickland, who made four three-pointers in the first half, the last one tying the game at 37. In the final three minutes of the half, the Toreros went on a 12-2 run to make the score, 44-37 lead.
They kept up the pressure in the second half, opening with a 12-3 run to build a 56-40 lead. That stretched to 72-55 with 8:32 before Navy made a late surge behind Mayjik, who made four three-pointers to get Navy as close as 74-66. Mayjik finished with 20 points.
But Woods and Barnhard were too much for Navy to handle inside. Barnhard, starting to progress after sitting out a year after back surgery, made four of five field goals and nine of 14 free throws, and Woods made 10 of 16 shots, mostly at the expense of Navy center Nick Marusich, who scored 15 points and fouled out.
"The last minute of the first half we really picked it up on defense," Egan said. "The second half we got it running, we beat their press a couple times and we got a lot of easy baskets."
Woods, who moved into 11th place in school career scoring with 994 points, said the Toreros enjoyed the fast tempo. "It's definitely more fun than a slower game. I had a lot of confidence tonight, more confidence than the last couple games," Woods said, adding that Barnhard's improvement "does help me--they can't cheat off him. But it helps the whole team when he has a great game."
Barnhard, who led the Toreros with six rebounds, said, "Each game I'm getting better and better. The coaches are getting on me a lot in practice to get me out of my finesse ways, they yell at me . . . that I can be more of a power player. My game plan was not their game plan, and their game plan works a lot better."
Egan said he will use this trip to measure the team's progress before starting West Coast Conference play.
And, he said, "You never know what you can pull off."