Courtesy of NavySports.com
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy men’s basketball team (7-9, 2-3 PL) built a 16-point second-half lead and held off a late rally for a 62-61 win over defending Patriot League Champion Bucknell (8-8, 3-2 PL) on Wednesday evening at Alumni Hall. Navy snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Bison while rebounding well from its loss to Army on Saturday.
Navy used a 13-0 run to take a 16-point lead (56-40) with 4:54 remaining, but Bucknell fought back with a 21-6 spurt that included outscoring Navy 10-0 in the final 3:01. Chris Hass hit two three pointers during that run, with his second pulling Bucknell within one at 62-61 with 54 seconds remaining.
Bucknell had fouls to give on the ensuing possession and eventually sent sophomore Kendall Knorr to the line for a one-and-one with 24 seconds remaining. Knorr missed the free throw and Bucknell took the ball over down one, but Knorr stole the ball and was fouled again. However, Knorr missed the front end of another one-and-one and Bucknell got the defensive rebound.
Still trailing by one, Bucknell’s Cameron Ayers missed a three pointer with six seconds left. Hass got the offensive rebound and shot a three from the left wing, but Knorr got a piece of it and as the shot came up well short of the rim, senior James Loupos wisely batted the ball back to half court as time expired to seal the win for Navy.
“I’m proud of the kids and I’m proud of the effort,” said head coach Ed DeChellis. “We played 37 great minutes, but the last three minutes, we didn’t do what we need to do. We did about everything we could do wrong [in the last three minutes] and we still won the game.”
Navy forced Bucknell to turn the ball over 19 times, the visitors season-high, and held a 10-0 advantage in points off turnovers in the first half and 18-12 overall. Navy also held a 14-0 edge in fast break points and led 42-28 in points in the paint.
“We pressed them and we trapped them a little bit in our zone,” said DeChellis. “We got a couple turnovers out of the zone and tried to get some easy baskets. We’re trying to mix things up and score off our defense if we can, to help us offensively.”
After Bucknell staked an early 15-6 lead six minutes into the first half, Navy used a 13-2 run to go ahead 21-15. Freshman Zach Fong‘s steal led to a fast-break layup by junior Brandon Venturini and then Fong had another steal and finished with a fast-break layup of his own. Knorr made a layup and Fong followed with a three before another Knorr jumper. Senior Thurgood Wynn scored on a layup and then a Wynn steal and a Venturini fast-break layup forced Bucknell to call a timeout.
Bucknell evened the game at 22-22 with a quick 7-1 run and the game was also tied at 26-26 just before halftime. Navy junior forward Worth Smith hit a jumper and then Fong drained a three just before the halftime buzzer for a five-point lead at the break.
Navy extended its lead to eight points in the first three minutes of the second half after two layups by Venturini and another by Smith. Bucknell again closed within three at 43-40, but the critical 13-0 Navy run put the Mids up 16 before Bucknell answered again and Navy was able to hold on for the win.
Navy’s 13-0 run started when freshman guard Grant Vermeer had a steal then finished a fast-break layup. Sophomore center Will Kelly then scored four straight points before Wynn jumped in the passing lane and had another fast-break layup. Smith later added three points on an and-one play following a made layup and then Fong buried a jumper before Bucknell’s Ben Brackney;s three pointer stopped the run.
Venturini, playing his first career game at the point guard position, scored a game-high 14 points and had four assists. Smith had 13 points and seven rebounds and Fong added 10 points.
Bucknell’s Steven Kaspar and Brackney each scored 12 points and Kaspar added a game-high 10 assists. Hass finished with 11 points and nine rebounds and Ayers had 10.
Navy will next play at Colgate on Saturday at 2:00 PM.