A game between winless teams turned into a duel between two impressive forwards. In the end, Idaho senior Beyonce Bea’s 34 points were just enough to overcome a career day by Navy’s Synde Watts as the visitors escaped Annapolis with a 90-84 win in the final game of the Navy Classic Sunday at Alumni Hall.
The host Midshipmen, who at 0-7 are off to the worst start in program history, reached a season-high for scoring thanks in large part to Watts, who exploded for a career-best 33 points on 11-for-21 shooting. The junior from Canton, Georgia drained four 3-pointers along the way.
Freshmen Maren Louridas and Kate Samson added 20 and 16 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Bea’s performance as well as Navy’s biggest problem all season — turnovers.
Navy came into the contest ranked 346th out of 349 Division I teams in turnover margin and the inability to take care of the ball once again proved costly. The Midshipmen committed 19 turnovers Sunday with eight coming early in the contest and allowing the Vandals to build a 23-19 lead.
“When they were in high school, it was easy for them to just stand there [because] they were better than everybody. Now they have to be able to move. We’ve got to be able to meet the passes,” Navy head coach Tim Taylor said. “I think the bad part is we had a couple of turnovers where they were getting breakaway layups and those are really hurting us.”
Taylor has been trying to find someone to step up at point guard since freshman Toni Papahronis was lost for the season with a knee injury only five minutes into the opener. For now, that duty has fallen in large part to Louridas.
“We’ve settled down offensively since we moved her to the point. Right now, by default with all of the injuries we’ve got, she’s got to play the point and she’s learning,” Taylor said.
One of Louridas’ main goals was to get the ball into the hands of Watts, who was unstoppable for most of the afternoon — even when facing double-teams by Idaho (1-3).
“[Sydne] was phenomenal. Today, we made a conscious effort to get her the ball in her spots,” Taylor said. “We kept getting Sydne on the low block and she was able to score. That opened up everything else.”
Unfortunately for Navy, Bea was equally as dominant for Idaho as she was able to make 11 of 16 field goals as well as 12 of 14 free throws.
“She’s a really tough match-up and just a really talented player,” Taylor said of the versatile 6-foot-1 senior.
Trailing 41-37 at the half, Navy put together a rally and took its largest lead of the game at the 6:20 mark of the third period after Watts and Louridas hit back-to-back 3 pointers. That run put the Mids ahead, 49-43.
Navy still held a 59-57 advantage early in the fourth period and had plenty of opportunities to extend the lead, but unforced errors proved costly once again.
Up by one with just over five minutes left in the game, Navy turned the ball over on three of its next four possessions and Idaho was able to capitalize on each to move ahead, 74-69. The Mids would battle back to tie things at 75 after Louridas hit a 15-foot jumper, but Bea answered with a layup.
The ensuing possession was a backbreaker for the Mids as Louridas launched an ill-advised 3-pointer with plenty of time remaining on the shot clock that fell way short.
“Maren, just like Synde, believes she is going to make every shot, which is a good thing. She has enough confidence to take that shot,” said Taylor, admitting the plebe probably attempted too tough of a shot in that situation. “I told her if you are going to take it, you better make it. That’s a freshman and those are learning things.”
Bea scored the next six points for Idaho, but Navy still had a chance to pull out the win after Sam Schofield drained a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 84-82 with 20 seconds remaining.
However, Idaho was able to sink two free throws then closed out the game after Watts missed a long-range attempt from beyond the arc. On a positive note, the 84 points were the most for the Midshipmen since they totaled 87 against New Mexico on Dec. 10, 2017.
Despite the difficult start, Watts feels this young Navy squad is improving.
“It’s been like night and day from the beginning of the season. I feel like every game we are pushing harder and meshing better as a team,” Watts said.
Navy, which was beaten 89-57 by Northern Illinois Saturday, will try to earn its first victory on Thursday at Alumni Hall against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“This is a young team and we’re still learning. Today was a step forward. I was excited about how we competed,” Taylor said. “We’re just short on players right now so that makes things a little more difficult. We know our team and our freshmen will improve. A lot of the things we’re encountering right now deal with getting game reps.”