College Basketball

Defensive letdown dooms Navy men’s basketball in 73-69 loss to American

Lockdown defense was largely responsible for the Navy men’s basketball team’s three-game winning streak, as the Midshipmen held two of three opponents to 46 and 45 points, respectively.

That aggressive, disruptive defense wasn’t on display Saturday against American, which used its version of the Princeton offense to get many high-percentage scoring opportunities.


Junior forward Matt Rogers led a balanced attack with 18 points and American shot 60.9% from the field in beating Navy, 73-69, before an announced crowd of 2,100 at Alumni Hall.

Rogers posted up strong in going 9-for-9 from the field as American scored 40 points in the paint. Jermaine Ballisager-Webb, a 7-footer, threw down two dunks in making three of his four shots.


“Our post defense was horrendous. Their two post players only missed one shot. The first thing on the board was to limit their points in the paint and we didn’t do it,” said Navy coach Ed DeChellis, who added that his interior defenders “got schooled.”

American forward Matt Rogers (15) dunks behind Navy guard Sean Yoder (3) during the second half of Saturday's game.

Sophomore guard Elijah Stephens totaled 12 points for American (14-7, 6-4 Patriot League), which finished with 22 assists on 28 field goals. Junior guard Colin Smalls added 10 points for the Eagles, who ended a seven-game losing streak to the Midshipmen.

DeChellis was disappointed because the primary focus in practice the previous two days was defending the screens and back cuts American uses to get shots at the basket and open 3-pointers.

“We told them for two days the key to the game was post defense and high hands on the perimeter. I don’t think we had high hands and got after the ball the way we should have,” DeChellis said.

Senior guard Sean Yoder scored 19 points to lead Navy (11-11, 4-6), which was beaten despite shooting 51% from the field and 43.8% from 3-point range. DeChellis was incredulous that the Eagles made 13 of 14 2-point attempts on the way to shooting 65% from the field in the second half.

“The last three games that we won, we were very good defensively. We held teams under their [shooting percentage] average from both the two and three,” DeChellis said. “Today we didn’t do it. We shot the ball pretty well from the floor and lost because we didn’t defend. We just didn’t guard them.”

Reserve senior shooting guard Christian Jones scored 14 points for Navy, which missed an opportunity to move into a tie with American in the middle of the Patriot League standings.

“This is a big game. This would have gotten us 5-5 in the league,” DeChellis said. “You can’t lose your home games.”


Connor Nelson swished a half-court heave at the buzzer as American forged a 37-37 tie at halftime. Rogers had 10 points in the first half for the Eagles, who used back cuts to get a lot of easy baskets at the rim.

Jones came off the bench to score 11 points for Navy, which had scoring runs of nine and eight points in the first half.

It was a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes with six ties and seven lead changes. Both teams shot just shy of 58% from the field in the first half.

American started the second half strong and took a six-point lead with six minutes elapsed and Navy was playing catch up the rest of the way. The Mids trailed by as much as 10 points with with 7:16 remaining.

“We did a good job of getting the ball inside today,” American head coach Mike Brennan said. “Navy really makes you work to get good shots. We had good ball movement.”

DeChellis resorted to fouling to extend the game in the final two minutes and that strategy was initially successful as Lincoln Ball and Elijah Stephens both missed the front end of one-and-one attempts.


A 3-pointer by Yoder got Navy within two, 71-69, with 33 seconds to go. The Mids had a chance to tie after Stephens made one of two free throws, but senior forward Nate Allison missed badly on drive to the basket and Stephens made a clinching free throw with four seconds left.

“It’s all on the defensive end. They missed one two-point shot in the second half. We just didn’t guard them,” DeChellis said. “We didn’t execute what we worked on for two days. That’s the disappointing thing for me. If we don’t defend, we ain’t winning.”

Navy at Lafayette

Wednesday, 7 p.m.

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