Too much athleticism and focus from an opponent dedicated to the mission. Too little accuracy from its own foul line.
Those were the problems confronting Navy's basketball team yesterday, and it couldn't find the antidotes in an 88-70 defeat to undefeated and 19th-ranked Auburn before 2,815 spectators at Alumni Hall.
"This is the best Auburn team I've seen in my lifetime," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "That includes when they had [Chuck] Person and [Charles] Barkley. They're headed for a lot of good things."
"I don't think they're too quick for us, but they're real athletic and they handled themselves well," said Navy captain Skip Victor, who led his side with 19 points. "They really run their offense well, and whenever we came at them, they kept their composure and came right back at us."
Navy (6-2) was returning from an 11-day break for semester examinations, but rustiness probably was never a factor in a game in which the Midshipmen went 5-for-17 from the free throw line and committed 23 turnovers, most of them forced by Auburn's swarming, relentless defense.
The Tigers scored nine of the first 11 points and never trailed, but Navy hung in contention and pulled to within 41-36 late in the first half. But forward Chris Porter hit a jumper to regain the momentum for Auburn and finished the first half with 23 points, one short of his career high.
Still, nothing was secure in Auburn coach Cliff Ellis' mind until a 10-2 spurt at the beginning of the second half fattened the lead to 55-38 and put Navy completely on the defensive.
"It was one of those things. We were playing so well," said Ellis. "But we couldn't get rid of them until we went to a 2-3 zone early in the second half and scored a couple of quick ones. I thought we were answering the bell with big plays."
Porter, a 6-7 junior from Abbeville, Ala., wound up with 34 points, 10 above his previous career high and a game-high 11 rebounds as Navy never solved the matchup problem he created. Sitapha Savane was off his game and in foul trouble, and there were no other answers for Porter.
Auburn (11-0) had another lightning-quick player in guard Doc Robinson, who moved just about anywhere he wanted.
"There were 6-11 guys and 6-8 guys [guarding me]," said Porter. "I'm 6-7 and I feel like my feet were a little quicker than theirs. I felt I could get to the basket quicker."
Compounding its problems, Navy also lost forward Robert Reeder to a broken nose early in the game. Reeder is questionable for tomorrow night's game against Dartmouth.
"We were schooled greatly," said DeVoe. "They completely dominated us. This one is obviously one where we didn't perform well, but the reason we didn't was Auburn. They just absolutely took us out of most of the things we have to do to be successful.
"They played like the home team, and we played like the road team. For us to be competitive with a team like Auburn, Sitapha, and all our players, have to be on the top of their game. Today they weren't."
Pub Date: 12/20/98