On a day when not a whole lot went right, Hasan Abdullah willed the Navy men’s basketball team to victory.
Abdullah scored 15 points and made the game-winning basket with six-tenths of a second left as Navy nipped Holy Cross, 50-48, on Sunday in an ugly game before an announced crowd of 1,236 at Alumni Hall.
Abdullah grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a short shot in the lane to lift Navy (5-8, 2-0) to its second straight win to start Patriot League play. Holy Cross tried to throw a long inbounds pass into the frontcourt, but Austin Butler’s baseball toss was way too long and went out of bounds.
“Through all the ups and downs, I kept telling the team that we’re going to win this game,” said Abdullah, who also dished off eight assists and swiped two steals.
“Regardless of what happened, whether somebody made a turnover or a bad play, I just tried to keep everyone’s heads up and encouraging them that we are going to win this game.”
Navy had called timeout with 20 seconds left to set up the final play, which apparently didn’t go as planned. Sophomore guard Cam Davis wound up taking a long jumper that bounced high off the rim and Abdullah was there to collect the carom.
“Actually, I ran the play wrong. Fortunately, Cam got a great look at the basket and got it up on the rim,” Abdullah said. “The ball just bounced my way and I was able to put it back in.”
Navy’s senior point guard may not have executed the play properly, but he followed the coaching staff’s directions with regard to the second part of the equation.
“We told them: ‘We’re going to take this with about five (seconds) and everybody go rebound.’ Hasan did what we asked him to do – he ran to the rim and the ball fell in his hands,” Navy head coach Ed DeChellis said.
Abdullah made 5 of 7 shots with four coming from 3-point range. Whenever Navy really needed a basket to keep things close, it seemed like Abdullah delivered.
“I thought Hasan controlled the game for us on offense and hit some big shots. That’s what you need a senior to do,” DeChellis said.
It was the second straight good shooting performance for Abdullah, who shot just 30 percent from field during 11 non-conference contests. He scored 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting against Colgate on Thursday night.
“Just getting in the gym and getting a lot of shots up,” Abdullah said when asked how he’s turned things around. “My teammates found me in great spots and made it easy to just catch and shoot.”
Junior center Evan Wieck scored nine points on 4 of 5 shooting for Navy, which stayed in the game with defense and rebounding. The Crusaders made just 18 of 49 field goals (36.7 percent) and were out-rebounded 47-27.
“When we’ve won games we’ve played pretty good defense and rebounded the ball. I thought we did that today,” DeChellis said. “We rebounded our brains out and I thought we played pretty good defense.”
Navy grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and only had six second chance points to show for it. However, Abdullah came through the one time the Mids really needed to put back a missed shot.
“That was a continuing theme throughout the game – they were killing us off the backboards,” Holy Cross head coach Bill Carmody said.
Senior forward Jehyve Floyd used a couple of spin moves to get to the basket for a layup that gave Holy Cross a 46-41 lead with 3:27 remaining in the game. Wieck responded with a layup and two possessions later Abdullah hit the last of his 3-pointers to tie the score at 46 with 1:28 to go.
Senior forward George Kiernan was 0-for-9 from the floor when he confidently pulled up for a baseline jumper that hit nothing but net and gave Navy a 48-46 lead with 43 seconds left. Floyd tied the score for the eighth time with a pair of free throws and that set up Abdullah’s heroics.
“A win is a win, however you may get it,” Abdullah said. “Sometimes you have to will your way to a win. That’s big for us and a lot of growth. I feel like we can really learn from this game and build off it.”
Nobody other than Abdullah and Wieck played well offensively for Navy, which shot 35.7 percent (20-56) from the field and committed 19 turnovers. Starting wing guards Cam Davis and John Carter Jr. combined to go 5-for-15 while their top backup, Greg Summers, was 1-for-8.
“Nobody could make a shot. I mean, you’ve got to be able to shoot the ball,” DeChellis said. “George made a big shot there at the end of the game, but he didn’t have his best day. We have to figure out how to get to the free throw line and get some points.”
Navy played a rigorous non-conference schedule and managed just three wins as a result, but it appears to be paying off now that Patriot League play has started.
“You have to win your home games. I tried to impress upon our guys that you have to protect your home court,” DeChellis said. “Hopefully, this will give us confidence and we’ll continue to grow as a team. I’m happy that we’re 2-0, but we can play a heck of a lot better.”
Sophomore forward Jacob Grandison scored 11 points while Floyd finished with 10 for Holy Cross (10-5, 1-1), which made just 5 of 20 3-point attempts and committed 14 turnovers.