If playing a nationally respected team like Stanford can be used as a measuring stick, the Navy basketball team did a lot of growing up last night before 1,817 at Alumni Hall.
The final score of 80-62 was hardly an indication of how tough the Midshipmen (4-3) played the veteran-laden Cardinal, which was tabbed as a Top 25 team in most of the preseason polls.
With 4:25 remaining, Navy trailed 63-56 after a three-point shot by Michael Heary (21 points). But Stanford (4-2) held the Mids without a field goal for the next four minutes and gained a commanding 77-57 lead.
Navy finished with five more field goals (26-21) than the visitors, but Stanford prevailed with a huge advantage from the foul line.
The Cardinals sank 35 of 48 free throws and the Mids converted four of 17, with sophomore forward Hassan Booker, just back from a foot injury this week, missing all seven of his attempts.
But Navy coach Don DeVoe offered no alibis.
"When you play a team of Stanford's experience and talent, you have to play with maturity and poise, and we didn't do that when we had to," he said.
Two poor judgment plays by Heary, in particular, proved costly.
Heary's first mistake came late in the first half after Navy had trimmed an 11-point deficit to 30-27. The last two points in this rally were the result of a strong baseline layup by Heary.
Referee John Cahill then blew his whistle and, pointing to Heary, signaled a technical.
"I thought I was fouled by [Andy] Poppink on the play," said Heary. "All I said to the referee was "And 1,' indicating I should have got a free throw."
Heary's indiscretion proved to be a momentum-breaker. Senior guard Dion Cross converted both technicals, Stanford kept possession and All-America candidate Breven Knight added two free throws before Navy reclaimed the ball.
By halftime, Stanford had built its lead to 41-29. That ballooned to 56-43 when Heary sparked another comeback that cut the deficit to 63-56.
But on Navy's next possession, Heary tossed up a wild three-point attempt from 30 feet.
"That was definitely a lack of maturity," said DeVoe. "You have to get a good shot in that situation."
Stanford quickly capitalized. Forward Darren Allaway hit two free throws. Cross followed with an open three-pointer for a 68-56 cushion with 3:37 left and Navy couldn't mount another run.
Poppink, an all-purpose 6-7 senior forward, killed most of Navy's rallies with his inside moves, hitting eight of 13 shots and scoring a team-high 21 points.
Knight, the heralded junior from East Orange, N.J., who had several pro scouts watching him last night, hit only one of nine shots from the field, but made eight of 10 free throws and had nine assists to keep Stanford's offense in gear.
He also kept playmaker Brian Walker (four points) from penetrating, forcing Navy to take most of its shots from the perimeter.
Asked about the discrepancy in free throws, DeVoe said, "I can't complain. Stanford stayed within its offense, and we didn't. Their guards did a good job of working the ball down low and their big men drew a lot of fouls.
"That's all part of the experience factor. We still have a long way to go to play at their level."
STANFORD -- Weems 2-2 1-1 5, Cross 3-6 7-8 16, Saver 2-2 3-3 7, Lee 0-1 0-0 0, Knight 1-9 8-10 10, Jackson 0-1 0-2 0, Harbour 2-2 5-7 9, Allaway 1-1 4-6 6, Poppink 8-13 5-8 21, Seaton 2-3 2-3 6. Totals 21-40 35-48 80.
NAVY -- Lucas 2-5 0-0 4, Hickman 2-5 0-0 6, Walker 2-5 0-0 4, Schuknecht 0-5 1-2 1, Sladky 2-5 0-0 4, Heary 8-19 1-3 21, Height 3-6 1-4 7, Booker 2-4 0-7 4, Green 2-6 1-1 5, Kohnen 3-7 0-0 6, Lookabill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-67 4-17 62.
Halftime--Stanford, 41-29. 3-point goals--S 3-8 (Cross 3-5, Knight 0-1, Harbour 0-2); N 6-20 (Heary 4-11, Hickman 2-4, Lucas 0-1, Schuknecht 0-1, Walker 0-1, Sladky 0-2). Rebounds--S 36 (Allaway 7); N 38 (Kohnen 7). Assists--S 13 (Knight 9); N 18 (Walker 6). Fouled out--Poppink, Schuknecht. Total fouls
--S 20, N 31. A--1,817.