ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy women’s basketball team continued to show glimpses of its potential on Thursday night as it led for over 27 minutes, including deep into the fourth quarter, but a tough stretch of action on both ends of the court resulted in a late 14-4 run by Maryland Eastern Shore to capture the 72-66 come-from-behind victory at Alumni Hall.
Sparked by their three-point shooting throughout the game, the Mids (0-8) were felled by 18 turnovers that resulted in 23 points by the Hawks (3-6) as well as a 23-shot advantage in foul shots for the visitors.
Sydne Watts (Jr., Canton, Ga.) and Maren Louridas (Fr., Delmar, N.Y.) were at the forefront of Navy’s three-point sharpshooting as the duo sank nine combined treys on Thursday night. For the game, Watts finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting and a career-high five three-pointers, while Louridas filled up the box score with 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four three-pointers.
In the best game of her young career, Shannon Clarke (Fr., Lawrence, Kan.) registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds over 21 minutes off the bench.
“We got out-toughed tonight, it’s as simple as that; they were tougher than we were,” remarked head coach Tim Taylor. “There were too many loose balls, we didn’t box out, our guard play boxing out wasn’t good enough. One of the biggest plays was when we took the 62-58 lead and we went into a zone and didn’t cover out the way we needed to and they [Eastern Shore] immediately hit a three to cut it to one. Right there we had an opportunity to lock in and potentially milk the clock. We got out-toughed, it’s as simple as that. That falls on the coaching staff and on the players. The discrepancy in foul shots was massive, we shoot seven and they shoot 30. They flat-out out-toughed us. Hats off to Eastern Shore. We didn’t answer the bell.”
The action at Alumni Hall opened fast for the host Midshipmen as crisp ball movement saw Morganne Andrews (Jr., Martinsburg, W.Va.) set up Kate Samson (Fr., Richmond, Va.) in the post for an easy layup on Navy’s first possession before long a offensive rebound by Samson and quick pass to Louridas at the top of the arch resulted in a wide-open three-pointer. Two more assisted baskets, first a jumper by Andrews from Mimi Schrader (Sr., Plymouth, Minn.) at 6:41 and a three-pointer by Watts from Louridas at 5:41 helped Navy hold a 10-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
After Eastern Shore knotted the game at 10-10 at 4:31, Navy responded with baskets on consecutive trips down the court to re-assert itself in the lead 15-10 following Watts’ trey at 3:35. The three-ball kept falling for the Mids down the stretch as Louridas sank her third three-pointer with 55 seconds left in the quarter to give Navy an 20-12 advantage. A late fast break layup by the Hawks’ Zamara Haynes in the closing seconds made it a 20-14 game at the first quarter break. Clean ball-handling was key to Navy’s six-point lead as the Mids had eight assists and just three turnovers.
Navy’s marksmenship from three-point range continued into the second quarter as the team made a trio of treys over the initial 3:44 of play. Successful three-pointers by Clarke, Schrader and lastly by Watts helped the Mids build out a game-high nine-point lead of 29-20. A slight 6-2 run by the Hawks drew them back to within five, 31-26 at the 3:49 mark. Louridas re-entered the scoring conversation with a three-pointer of her own on the ensuing possession to put Navy ahead 34-26. Undeterred, Eastern Shore answered with an 8-0 streak to even the score, 34-34 with 21 seconds left. The connection of a Louridas pass into Samson in the post and a turnaround jumper by the freshman center gave the Mids a 36-34 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
Coming out in the second half, Watts propelled Navy into an early six-point advantage with the first two made field goals to make it 40-34 at 8:17. A 9-0 run by Eastern Shore gave the visitors their first lead of the game. With the score 43-40 in favor of the Hawks, Clarke quickly hit a three-pointer as a rebuttal the next time down the court with 4:27 left in the quarter. The scoring slowed for both sides in the period’s final minutes as Eastern Shore netted six points versus five for Navy. The duo of Watts and Clarke continued to pace the Mids in the period and scored all 12 points as Watts finished with seven points, while Clarke had five.
Ahead 49-48 at the start of the fourth quarter, Eastern Shore increased its lead to three points by the 8:36 mark before Clarke struck again from distance to record her third three-pointer of the game. The freshman’s trey was followed up by a Schrader jumper and a Watts free throw to put Navy back in the lead by three, 54-51 at 6:04. Three-pointers by Watts at 5:33 and later at 3:32 twice gave the Mids’ four-point advantages. With the score 62-58, Eastern Shore battled back and nailed a three-pointer on its next possession to kick-start an 11-0 run over 3:08. Trailing 69-62, Navy received a pair of field goals in the final 24 seconds, but Eastern Shore connected on three free throws to clinch the 72-66 road victory.
“We went small with Shannon for most of the second half,” said Taylor. “That’s something that we hope to do more as she gets healthier. She can really help us.”
For the game, Navy outshot Eastern Shore 38.5 percent (25-65) to 36.5 (23-63) from the field and 40.6 percent (13-32) to 37.5 (6-16) from three-point range. The Hawks had a significant advantage in opportunities at the free throw line and converted 66.7 percent (20-30) of their shots versus 42.9 (3-7) for the Mids. 13 successful three-pointers tie for tenth all-time in the program’s single-game record book.
In the rebounding battle, Navy grabbed 46 caroms, 23 on offense and 23 on defense, versus 41 for Eastern Shore. The Hawks were also active on the offensive glass with 20 o-boards to go along with 21 defensive rebounds. Clarke and Samson tied for the game-high with 10 rebounds each. Louridas nearly joined her classmates in double-figures with nine boards.
Defensively, The Mids were led by Samson’s career-high five blocks. Eastern Shore left its mark in the defensive statline with 12 steals and forced Navy into 18 turnovers.
“We had some freshmen mistakes,” said Taylor in closing. “We had some drives that we should have been finishing with our left hand and we were doing some things that we shouldn’t be doing. We have a lot of plays and situations to look back and learn from.
“It’s going to be a quick and difficult turnaround. Rider is a good basketball team. They have a lot of experienced players and really good guards. We’ll see a completely different style of basketball on Saturday versus tonight. They’ll run a thousand different sets on offense and they don’t guard you as much full-court as Eastern Shore does. It’s going to be a contrast in styles.”
Navy will be back in action on Saturday morning with an 11 a.m. tip-off at home versus Rider. The contest will be the final non-conference home game for Navy during the regular season.