Men’s basketball falls to Navy 71-53
Slow start, rebounding issues plague Eagles against Midshipmen
The height and rebounding ability of the Navy Midshipmen proved too much for AU to overcome at home on Wednesday night as they fell to their opponents 71-53.
“They’re [Navy] 6-3 in the league so they’re good [and] they’re tough,” AU head coach Mike Brennan said. “That was the first time [this season] I feel like we really got whooped. They were tougher than us.”
The Eagles (5-15, 2-7 PL) were out rebounded 36 -19 leading to 16 second chance points for the Midshipmen. Navy (11-10, 6-3 PL) had five players record double figure scoring outputs. The Eagles had won their previous eight games at Bender Arena against the Midshipmen.
AU was unable to find an offensive rhythm early in the game, missing four shots and losing the ball out of bounds on their first five possessions. Navy ran a matchup zone defense that stagnated the Eagles’ motion-based Princeton offense and used their height to clog passing lanes on backdoor cuts behind the defense.
“They’re matchup [zone] is tough to play against,” Brennan said. “So we know [what] we have to do next time and what kind of practices we have to do [to get ready].”
Navy opened up an 11 point lead before the Eagles put a point on the board. Sophomore guard Lonnie Rivera’s three-point basket with 16 minutes left in the first half was the Eagles’ first point of the game. The Eagles pulled themselves back into the game, scoring the next nine points to take their only lead of the game 12-11 at the 12:34 mark.
Junior guard Shawn Anderson, the reigning Patriot League Player of the Week, helped the Mids reclaim their lead, scoring on two drives to the basket, part of Navy’s 14 first half points in the paint. The Mids’ defense held the Eagles to ten points over the last 11 minutes of the first half, extending their lead to 35-25 at halftime.
The Eagles’ second leading scoring player, sophomore guard Delante Jones, averaging 12.3 points per game, managed only three points in 23 minutes. Rivera led the Eagles with 13 points in a season-high 31 minutes.
The Eagles gradually cut into Navy’s lead in the second half, pulling within seven after Rivera hit a three-point basket from the wing and two free throws from senior forward Charlie Jones. The Midshipmen responded with an 11-2 run spearheaded by two three-pointers by sophomore guard Hasan Abdullah. Abdullah finished with 14 points and junior forward Tom Lacey recorded 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Brennan identified offensive rebounds as a major deterrent from the Eagles closing the Midshipmen's lead late in the game.
“We had a lot of stops but then we didn’t get the ball, that’s demoralizing and they got some open shots [off offensive rebounds],” Brennan said. “We went zone and they got some open looks against that but it was mostly the offensive rebounds [that were the problem].”
Freshman guard Sa’eed Nelson, the Eagles’ leading scorer going into the game, finished with 11 points on three-of-eight shooting from the field and freshman forward Mark Gasperini added 11 points and five assists.
The Eagles return to action Saturday January 29 against last-place Colgate at 2 p.m. in Bender Arena.