The Washington Times - November 17, 2008, 12:49PM

Navy’s season opener Friday was not a terribly plesant experience.

The Midshipmen couldn’t shoot. They only occasionally defended. They just about emptied the bench because of injuries and foul trouble.


Oh, and they lost 86-68 at Towson in a game that probably wasn’t that close.

Was there time to wallow? Not so much, especially with Sunday’s visit from Howard looming.

Sure enough, it was a different Navy team on display at Alumni Hall. Much better defense. A little timely shooting. And a 66-55 victory delivered with a 17-1 run to close the game.

“We’re at a point right now where the only way we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves is to play games,” Navy coach Billy Lange said. “I’m not pulling an Allen Iverson. I still think the practices are important. I think for us to learn, to make adjustments, to see which way we’re headed and to project how we’re going to be competitive in our conference, we’re going to have to play games.”

There were some welcome signs in the Mids’ first home game. Chris Harris dropped 22 points, and Navy also cut its turnovers from 18 in the opener to 14 against the Bison.

Then there was the defense, which didn’t allow Howard to make a shot from the floor in the final 9:14. The Bison missed their last 11 field goal attempts.

That’s the formula for Navy to do well later in the season. The Mids have enough athleticism to be able to quickly turn a rebound into a fast break, and that should sustain them for a while until the offense is figured out.

This is a team that opens with five games in 12 days —- including tomorrow’s home game with St. Francis (N.Y.). The Mids will play 10 games in 26 days before pausing for exams after a Dec. 9 trip to Mount St. Mary’s.

If improvement comes, it will be visible for all to see. And in the final 10 minutes against Howard, a little boost came at the right time.

“I think when things got tough, we came out and showed we can stay together when things aren’t going our way,” Harris said.

—- Patrick Stevens