Tyler Nelson’s (Sr., Monroe, N.C.) 23 points powered the Navy (15-11, 8-6) men’s basketball team to a 70-53 victory over Army (14-13, 8-6), Saturday afternoon at Alumni Hall in Annapolis in the annual Star Game, part of the Star Series presented by USAA.
Navy has now won the Star Game in three-straight years, in five of the last six seasons and in eight of the last 10 years. The Mids also swept the regular season series from the Black Knights for the first time since 2015.
Additionally, Navy has now won four-straight games as well as seven of its last eight.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. “I thought we guarded pretty well and forced some turnovers.
“These (Army vs. Navy) are hard-fought games. I feel for both teams.”
Nelson set the tone early by scoring the game’s first three points on a field goal and foul shot to start the Mids on their way to a 9-2 lead. Army chipped away at the deficit and soon took leads of 14-11 and 19-16. Nelson again was fouled while making a basket, and his resulting free throw tied the game at 19-19 and began a 13-2 run that boosted the Mids to a 29-21 lead. Navy would go into halftime holding a 29-24 edge.
Nelson entered the game having scored 16 points in each of his last two games against Army. He totaled 14 points in the first half of today’s game.
“It is one of a kind,” said Nelson about winning today. “It is my last year playing for an N-Star. It is incredible, surreal and bittersweet. It is a great feeling.
“I wanted to be aggressive. I feel that is one of big things in my game; attack mode at all times. When I see it, I go.”
Navy began to build some breathing room early in the second half as an 8-0 and 12-1 run gave it a 49-32 lead with 12 minutes left on the clock. The Mids would hold the Black Knights without a made field goal for over six minutes, extending their advantage to 54-36 with just over 10 minutes still to play. It soon became a 59-40 cushion following Nelson’s third triple of the game, which expanded to 66-44 with just over five minutes showing on the clock.
Navy’s defense limited Army to a 7-29 (24.1%) shooting effort in the second half, including a 2-10 (20%) showing from three-point range. The Black Knights would end the game shooting 30.8 percent (16-52) from the floor and made just 23.5 percent (4-17) of their three-point attempts. Army made 16 field goals and 17 free throws in the game.
Army’s Chris Mann scored 28 points in the first game of the year between the teams, but was limited to two points on 1-7 shooting from the field. He also picked up two early fouls that kept him on the bench for most of the first half. His all-league teammate Jalen Rucker ended the game 3-10 from the floor, scored just 12 points and committed five turnovers before he fouled out.
“They (Army) like to drive,” said Nelson. “If we cover the drive they like to back you down. Their guards and forwards are aggressive at getting to the paint. They are all very aggressive on the ball. We sat down and defended.”
In contrast, in the second half, the Navy shot 52 percent (13-25) from the field and had a 42.9 percent (24-56) showing for the afternoon. The Mids were 7-28 (25%) from three-point-land during the game.
“In the first half we took 17 three-point shots,” said DeChellis. “They were open (shots), but weren’t going in. I was hesitant to say ‘don’t shoot them’ because they were open. At timeouts I was saying the ball had to go into the post first and then it can come back out. I thought we needed to get the ball at the rim a little more and try and get to the free throw line.
“The second half was a little better for us offensively. We scored 41 points; that’s a lot for us. Defensively, we were solid and offensively we scored just enough points.”
Army held a 13-8 advantage in offensive boards, but Navy totaled a 10-1 edge in second-chance points. The opportunistic Mids also held advantages of 16-9 in points after turnovers (Navy had nine turnovers and forced 16) and 9-2 in fast break points.
Nelson ended the game with a box score line of 23 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks. The Mids outscored the Black Knights by 21 points when Nelson was on the floor.
He was one of four Mids to score in double figures as Daniel Deaver (Sr., Falls Church, Va.) scored 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, Sean Yoder (Sr., Dublin, Pa.) contributed 11 points, five rebounds and five assists and Austin Inge (Jr., Greensboro, N.C.) tallied 10 points.
Navy heads back out on the road Wednesday for a game at Lehigh.