COLLEGE PARK — Saturday’s game between Navy and Mount St. Mary’s featured a pair of in-state teams with conference championship aspirations. And while that goal isn’t attainable in late November, getting a chance to see each other in competition ― even in an empty Xfinity Center on University of Maryland’s campus ― can serve as an early-season indicator of what’s to come.
The Mountaineers did their best to erase a 10-point deficit in the final 2 minutes, but the Midshipmen held on behind a strong performance from guard Cam Davis. The senior poured in a game-high 26 points and was perfect from the free-throw line in leading Navy past the Mount 73-67.
Navy (2-1) built a comfortable lead early in the second half, and still led by double-digits in the final minutes before Mount St. Mary’s crafted a comeback that fell a little short. Davis had 10 points in the final 4:08, all from the free-throw line, and scored 20 in the second half. He finished 10-for-10 from the line, and eclipsed 1,000 career points in the victory.
“I think we just focused on some of our pillars,” Davis said about the second half. “We wanted to come out and guard a little bit better. We wanted to come out and give them a better look defensively, and we also wanted to crash the glass a little better and limit their second-chance points.”
Davis’ rebound in the final seconds also helped seal a Navy win ― Mount St. Mary’s (1-1) had the ball down by one, after trailing by 13 with 2:42 to play. Mount junior guard Damian Chong Qui fired a 3-pointer from the right side that caromed off the rim and into the hands of Davis, who drew a foul and sank both free throws at the other end.
Chong Qui hit a pair of 3s on back-to-back possessions during the Mountaineers’ rally, the second coming from the top of the arc with 23 seconds to go and cutting Navy’s lead to 68-67.
But MSM couldn’t get any closer, and coach Dan Engelstad lamented his team’s 13 turnovers in defeat.
“I told the guys I was proud of their ability to fight back. We dug ourselves a hole, and I thought the more disciplined team won today,” Engelstad said. “We know they’re a veteran team, they limit their mistakes. They’re very physical, I thought that wore on us a little bit.”
Chong Qui led the Mount with 18 points and senior guard Jalen Gibbs netted 16 (he made four 3-pointers).
Navy built a 10-point lead a little more than 5 minutes into the second half, with John Carter Jr. swishing a 3-pointer from the wing amid a 15-2 scoring run. Mount St. Mary’s missed five of its first six shots, and a pair of free throws, coming out of the break.
The Midshipmen led by as many as 16, but coach Ed DeChellis said he was more pleased with their guts down the stretch.
“I liked our kids’ resilience,” said DeChellis, whose squad lost by 30 to Maryland on Friday. “Really proud of our kids. Playing here [Friday] and getting waxed, and then coming back this afternoon and being able to put a really solid game together other.”
Navy has four starters back from last year’s team that went 14-16 but should be in contention for its first Patriot League title in 20 years. Shooting 86% from the free-throw line will certainly make the Mids contenders ― they finished 19-for-22 against Mount St. Mary’s.
“It’s good preparation for us because in the Patriot League we’re going to play Saturdays and Sundays, and we’re going to play back-to-back,” DeChellis said.
Same goes for Mount St Mary’s in the Northeast Conference, with eight instances of successive conference matchups on the 2020-21 schedule. The Mountaineers return four of their top five scorers, led by Chong Qui and his preseason all-NEC honors.
The Mount defeated Morgan State on Wednesday in its season opener and was looking for its first 2-0 start since 1993.
“We didn’t come out fast enough,” Gibbs said. “We just have to do a better job out of halftime, just keeping the same energy we had in the first and not coming out cold.”
Both team’s offenses picked up the tempo in the final 5 minutes of the first half. Gibbs canned a 3-pointer from the wing that put MSM ahead 23-21 with 4:26 to go, and he drained another one about 2 minutes later to give the Mount a 29-28 edge. After a Chong Qui steal led to a layup from freshman Dakota Leffew, putting the Mountaineers up by three points with 2:08 remaining, Navy answered.
Davis knocked down a jumper from the free-throw line on the Midshipmen’s next possession, and when Mount St. Mary’s went cold its opponent took advantage. Davis hit another 15-footer with 30 seconds to go, while MSM missed its final three shots of the half.
Mount St. Mary’s faces Maryland on Sunday at 2 p.m., while Navy prepares for another nearby foe in Georgetown on Dec. 1.
“We made a push … our press got us back in it,” Engelstad said. “I think we showed some resolve, but for us to be the team that we are capable of becoming, we’ve got to be a lot more disciplined.”
MOUNT ST. MARY’S@MARYLAND
Sunday, 2 p.m.
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Tuesday, 6 p.m.
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