Playing five-on-one has its obvious advantages as the Naval Academy basketball team proved last night in beating Gettysburg and its gang of one, Mark Borden, 85-63, before about 800 at Alumni Hall in Annapolis last night.
Borden, a 6-foot-8 senior center, scored 22 of the Bullets' 26 points in the first half and accounted for all his team's baskets until John Brooks made a layup two minutes into the second half.
That broke the spell, and Gettysburg, which trailed 41-26 at the half, closed to 45-35 on a three-pointer by Steve Gordon with 16:33 remaining.
But the Midshipmen (3-4) regrouped and used the height of 6-11 sophomore center Alex Kohnen (17 points, 17 rebounds) on the inside and the speed of freshman guard Brian Walker and sophomore Kico Eaton to gain a commanding 71-52 lead at the six-minute mark when coach Don DeVoe began emptying his bench.
The victory halted a four-game losing streak for the Mids and also avenged a bitter overtime loss to Gettysburg last season.
And they won without help from leading scorer T.J. Hall, who sat out the game to make up for playing with the JV before the varsity season began.
"We would have put T.J. in there if we weren't in command after eight minutes of the first half," said DeVoe, "but fortunately we didn't need him tonight."
The Mids, with 10 points off the bench from forward Larry Green, moved to a 39-18 advantage with three minutes left in the first half.
At that point, Borden, scoring on quick baseline moves and 3-for-3 from three-point range, had scored 17 of Gettysburg's points.
"I can't recall a game where one player scored so many points and no one else contributed," said DeVoe, a college head coach since 1971.
"I wanted to play around him, said Kohnen, "but they spread the floor so much, it made us vulnerable to the lob pass. I didn't know he had the shooting range to make three-pointers. But in the second half, I just elected to play behind him. He doesn't like shooting over people."
The strategy worked. Borden went 2-for-5 in the second half to finish with 26 points while Kohnen was enjoying a career-high scoring night and tying his academy record for rebounds.
"Give Alex a lot of credit," said DeVoe. "He sprained his ankle five days ago and was kind of gimpy. But he was a real factor."
Walker, a plebe from Marion, Ind., who was heralded as a future floor leader for the Mids, struggled the first month of the season. But he showed his potential last night, scoring six points and consistently beating his man to the basket.
"The only one who slows down Brian Walker is us," said Kohnen, who fumbled several of the freshman's blind passes.
Eaton, a graduate from the junior varsity, was also impressive, contributing seven points and five assists in 21 minutes. But his seven turnovers had DeVoe holding his head repeatedly.