The Navy men’s basketball team has dropped its last three games – a streak culminating with a 63-48 loss to UMBC Monday night. And coach Ed DeChellis said he knows what has contributed to the setbacks.
DeChellis said the Midshipmen’s defense and rebounding have been less than stellar in losses to Bryant on Dec. 14, Northern Kentucky on Dec. 21 and UMBC. The Bulldogs shot 50.9 percent (28-of-55) and collected 44 rebounds to Navy’s 33 in a 90-80 victory in overtime.
The Norse converted 51.0 percent (25-of-49) of their shots and earned a 28-27 edge in boards in a 72-65 decision. And the Retrievers shot 47.8 percent (22-of-46) and registered a 40-31 advantage in rebounds.
By comparison, in the three games that the Midshipmen (5-6) won before the losing skid, they limited UMBC to 31.0 percent (18-of-58) and outrebounded the Retrievers, 45-33, in a 73-58 victory on Nov. 23. They contained UMES to 33.3 percent (19-of-57) and recorded a 40-35 edge in boards and held The Citadel to 44.6 percent (25-of-56) and scored a 39-35 advantage in rebounds.
“It’s fundamentals defensively, it’s fundamentals guarding the ball, it’s fundamentals rebounding the ball,” DeChellis said Tuesday afternoon. “There are nights when you’re not going to be pretty good offensively, but you better bring those two things, and we haven’t done that, and that’s what I’m most disturbed about our team. We haven’t defended and we haven’t rebounded, especially in the second half of games. So that’s back to the basics of fundamental basketball.”
Navy’s lackluster performance against UMBC was aided by the absence of sophomore point guard Tillman Dunbar, who has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of unspecified academy rules. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound Dunbar had led the team in scoring (11.9 points per game), assists (5.0) and playing time (30.9 minutes), and his absence will be felt deeply, DeChellis said.
“It impacts us on both ends of the floor,” he said. “Offensively, [Dunbar] was a speed guard and could really push the ball and create, and his speed caused some problems for the other team. He was able to drive and kick and get other guys some shots. If you’re taking your quarterback out of the game, it’ll take you some time to adjust. So offensively, that’s a situation for us that we’re trying to work through. The kid who came in for him [junior Earl McLaurin] last night had seven assists and one turnover. But he’s just not the kind of point guard that can score. … Now we’ve got to try to manufacture some points, and when you’re taking that chunk out of your lineup, that’s a big part of your offensive thrust, especially when he’s the leading assist guy, too. So now we’re playing a guy who’s a more pass-first guy and not really an offensive scoring guy yet. But hopefully, he’ll grow into that if he continues to play. And on the defensive side, Till had pretty quick hands. He could guard the ball. But we were best when we went from defense to offense in transition, and that’s where we will miss him the most here.”
DeChellis said he has received no notice of Dunbar’s availability, which could be as early as next week or as extended as the rest of the season.
“That will be determined in the Commandant’s Office,” DeChellis said. “We’re playing it game by game as if one of our guys was hurt. We have to put somebody else in the game and we don’t know how long they’re going to take to recover. That’s kind of how we’re approaching it.”