The Navy men's basketball team had logged more than 9,000 miles in the air during the first three weeks this season heading into Wednesday night's game at Towson.
For at least one night, the road less traveled proved far more fruitful.
Despite taking the court without top scorer Jordan Sugars, who suffered a hand injury in practice Tuesday, Navy hit its first nine shots from the field, building its lead to as much as 22 in the first half before staving off the Tigers' furious comeback bid in an 89-84 win.
Led by a career-high 31 points from freshman J.J. Avila and 20 from senior Josh Brown, the Midshipmen — who had entered the night shooting 33 percent from the field as a team — went 14-for-17 to open the game, nearly scoring a knockout punch in the first 16 minutes.
"We had a lot of momentum," Avila said. "All the shots we had were in rhythm, so to us there were no tough shots. Everything seemed like a wide-open shot."
Towson coach Pat Kennedy said he had preached to his squad to be wary of Navy, despite its less-than-stellar statistics
"As a coach, there's not much more you can do other than over-emphasize that they're going to come out of [their poor shooting]," Kennedy said. "You try to share with your players that this is an extremely dangerous game. As soon as they hit those first three shots, I turned to my assistant and said, 'Here we go.'
"The fact is we gave them the opportunity to gain the momentum, and we weren't able to take it away from them."
Down 22 late in the first half, Towson got back in the game with its defense, forcing Navy into a series of low-percentage shots, then capitalizing at the offensive end.
Trailing 49-27, the Tigers outscored the Midshipmen, 27-10, over the next 9:05, pulling to within five on back-to-back three-pointers by Troy Franklin (18 points) and Brian Morris (16).
After cutting the lead to three on a three-pointer by Morris, Towson made its most costly mistake when, following a failed ally-oop attempt, Franklin was called for a foul, then quickly picked up another his fifth — a technical for arguing — with just 55 seconds left. .
Avila took full advantage at the line, sinking four straight to increase the lead to seven.
Towson, which has just two more home games this calendar year, dropped to 1-3.
The win broke a three-game losing streak for the Midshipmen (2-5), who needed a victory to avoid their worst start in 18 years.Navy scored its most points in a game since January.
"We've been getting great looks the last three or four games, and now they're starting to fall," Navy coach Billy Lange said. "Guys are getting into a rhythm. It's just taken some time."
To say Navy started quickly would be an understatement.
By the time Avila made a 3-pointer from the corner with 9:29 left in the first half, Navy had built a 39-17 lead and made seven of its first eight shots from beyond the arc..