Led by a career-high 21 points from Christian Jones (Sr., Bowie, Md.), four members of the Navy men’s basketball team’s senior class scored in double figures and sparked the Mids (10-10, 3-5) to a second-half rally to defeat Army (11-10, 5-3), 77-71, Saturday afternoon at Christl Arena in West Point, N.Y.
“It is a typical Army-Navy game,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis, who coached the 800th game in his 27-year head coaching career today. “Pretty intense, pretty tough, both teams playing really, really hard.”
Navy struggled shooting at the start of the game as its 2-8 effort had them trailing, 11-5. Army soon held leads of 15-7, 24-15 and 32-21. Navy was able to close to within six points at 37-31 before a late basket by Army’s Chris Mann closed the scoring in the half and gave the Black Knights a 39-31 lead at the break.
Mann was very effective throughout the first half as he was 5-6 from the floor and 4-6 from the foul line in scoring 14 points in the first 20 minutes. He boosted Army to a 57.1 percent shooting half (15-28), which was in contrast to the 12-31 performance by the Mids (38.7%).
Helping keep Navy within range of Army was Jones, who was playing in the first Army-Navy game of his career. He made a trio of three-point baskets in scoring 11 first-half points.
“It started off slow,” said Jones. “Had a little bit a slump trying to find ourselves and settle in.”
“I don’t think we played really well in the first half,” said DeChellis, “and we were within striking distance. I thought they (Army) shot the ball really well from the floor and made some tough threes, but I thought we were okay. I knew we could shoot the ball better in the second half, and we did.”
The Mids fell behind 43-31 in the early stages of the second half but quickly turned up their scrappiness level and clawed their way back to within 48-43 with just over 15 minutes on the clock. Included in that span was Tyler Nelson (Sr., Monroe, N.C.) blocking two shots on one possession and later flipping a loose ball toward the Navy basket — before he careened into the scoring table — that Daniel Deaver (Sr., Falls Church, Va.) caught in stride and slammed home for a two-handed dunk.
The score soon was tied for the first time at 48-48 following a triple from Sean Yoder (Sr., Dublin, Pa.) and a basket by Deaver. Navy took its first lead of the game when Jones hit his fourth triple of the afternoon to make the score 51-50 with 12:14 on the clock.
The lead would be exchanged 10 more times including when Deaver scored on a putback to make the score 64-63 with five minutes remaining. One minute later, Nelson dropped in his second dunk of the night to give the Mids a 66-63 lead with four minutes left. Mann then scored three points over the next two Army possessions to tie the game at 66-66 with just under three minutes still to play.
Nelson placed Navy back into the lead, 69-66, when he drilled a three-point basket on the ensuing possession. The Black Knights missed a shot, got the ball back after a turnover by the Mids and missed another shot. That left two minutes remaining. The ensuing Navy possession saw Yoder fouled after he drove the baseline to the other side of the basket. He made both free throws to give Navy a 71-66 lead with 1:40 left on the clock.
Army promptly sent the ball to Mann, who drove down the right side of the lane. Nelson impeded his progress and in searching for someone to pass to he threw the ball out of bounds toward the opposite end of the Army bench with 1:24 still to play. The Black Knights immediately called timeout. When play resumed, Nelson drove down the lane and scored while being fouled with 59.2 seconds remaining. He made the foul shot to stretch the cushion to 74-66.
Navy was 3-6 from the foul line over the rest of the game to seal the victory.
The Mids scored 31 points in the first 22 minutes of the game, but outscored Army, 46-28, over the last 18 minutes. Navy seniors scored 42 of those 46 points.
“We knew we had to buckle down and defend,” said Jones of Navy’s second-half mindset.
Navy shot 57.7 percent from the field in the second half and limited Army to a mark of 45.8 percent. The Mids also were 3-7 from three-point range after halftime while the Black Knights were 1-6.
“We made some big shots,” said DeChellis. “I thought defensively we knocked some balls free and had some transition baskets to get them on their heels somewhat.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win the game.”
Navy held second-half leads in each of the specialty scorings stats: 16-3 in points after turnovers, 22-18 in points in the paint, 7-4 in second-chance points, 10-3 in fastbreak points and 10-7 in bench points.
Jones was 3-3 from the field in the second half to end the game with a 7-9 overall effort that included four three-point field goals. Nelson was all over the court to finish with 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Deaver scored 14 points and fellow senior Yoder posted 13 points.
Mann had a great game himself as he scored 28 points after making 11-15 field goals, 1-3 three-point shots and 5-8 free throws, and led all players with eight rebounds.
Navy heads back out on road for a Wednesday night game at Bucknell.