The Most Wonderful Time of the Year isn’t off to a jolly start for Navy.
It had been 16 years and a day since the Mids had battled Brown on Annapolis hardwood. But unlike 2002’s contest, which carried to overtime, Saturday’s game was rarely close.
“It's real easy. You can't turn the ball over 20 times and give the other team 21 points off your turnovers,” coach Ed DeChellis said. “That’s the game.”
A sluggish showing from Navy on the offensive end resulted in a third-straight defeat for the Mids to a non-conference opponent as the Bears prevailed, 67-50, on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Hall.
DeChellis thinks his Mids (2-5) are still suffering the effects losing the leadership of four seniors had on the predominantly young squad.
“Sometimes I think we go out there and play to play the game. We got to play to try to play to win,” he said.
Sophomore guard Cam Davis shouldered the bulk of Navy’s scoring in the first half, as did freshman guard John Carter, Jr. in the second. Each left what they had on the court with 11 points apiece, extending Davis’ double-digit streak to six games.
“We need more from other guys, whether it's guys starting the game or guys coming off the bench,” DeChellis said. “We just need more from everybody. You can't win with 14 baskets.”
It would only be in the beginning of the first half that Navy managed to corral Brown to a slim lead, especially as Davis, sophomore forward Luke Loehr and freshman guard Josiah Strong swished back-to-back-to-back treys to spark the Mids’ onward.
But even as Navy’s defense pestered Brown relentlessly in the paint, there was little the Mids could do when it came to sophomore guard Desmond Cambridge. Last winter’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year peppered 16 points in the first frame alone, more than half of what Navy had amassed all-together, and rattled off 29 points by game’s end.
After going 2-for-11 from the field against Rhode Island, the Bears sophomore had been ravenous for a good night. Navy was a victim of unfettered ambition.
“This was really big for me,” Cambridge said. “I needed to see the ball go in the rim. … When you've got teammates who are unselfish and pass you the ball — I'm a shooter. It's going to go in.”
The Mids never caught up to the Bears as the half waned, and to make matters worse, they went dry in the field for 13 minutes until a shot from Davis finally landed in the bucket.
“We're not making any baskets. That's really, really been our Achilles heel for the last two or three games now,” DeChellis said.
Davis, a product of Battlefield, Missouri, lit a little fire at the end of the half. He shot twice from beyond the arc, including a crowd-charging buzzer-beater to leave Navy just nine points behind Brown, 32-23 as they headed back to the lockers.
“As a team, I feel like whenever we played really hard, everything was going really well for us,” Davis said.
But quickly in the second half, it was obvious the good energy Davis had generated had run out. Led by Cambridge, who happily sank his first dunk of two five minutes in, the Bears forged ahead on a 16-point run, keeping Navy to just five.
Even as Brown got a little more erratic under pressure the few times Navy pieced together a couple scoring strings — and mostly free throws at that — the Bears held strong, picking at Navy’s weaknesses.
“The biggest weakness I'd probably see [is] in the 2-3 zone,” Cambridge said. “In the zones, it's easier to get 3-pointers off and, as you can see, we were shooting a lot of threes.”
As the time whittled down to just single digits, the Mids picked up a little steam via a handful of free throws and a layup. As Navy tried to cage the ball to their end of the floor, the Bears swept it away, never letting their lead get smaller than 15 points in the last five minutes.
In the end, the Mids shot just 14-for-54 from the field; Brown shot 14 in the second half alone, and wound up 27-for-58.
“What you can't do is you can't shoot 25 percent and win. It's almost statistically impossible, unless the other team shoots 24,” DeChellis said. “That doesn't happen very often.”
Inklings of things going right were most obvious at the free throw line, as the Mids went 15-for-17. It was quietly a momentous night for senior guard Hasan Abdullah as well as he moved into Navy’s 10th spot all-time for career steals (137) with two.
“You can focus on some of the positives, but in a loss, the negatives kind of shine,” Davis said. “We didn't shoot as well as we're capable of, and we all know that.”
Navy won’t be home again in the month of December. The Mids next play Delaware on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. to start the four-game road trip.
BROWN 67, NAVY 50
BROWN (6-3): DeWolf 1-2 0-0 2, Choh 3-6 2-3 8, Okolie 1-2 0-0 2, Anderson 4-11 0-0 10, Cambridge 12-18 0-0 29, Franks 0-0 0-0 0, Gainey 0-0 0-0 0, Fuller 0-0 0-0 0, Howard 5-9 2-3 13, Mitchell 0-1 0-0 0, Shaper 0-0 0-0 0, Hunsaker 0-3 0-0 0, Shaughnessy 0-1 0-0 0, Mawanda-Kalema 0-2 0-0 0, Sullivan 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 27-58 4-6 67.
NAVY (2-5): Ogele 1-5 0-0 2, Wieck 0-1 2-3 2, Abdullah 0-6 2-2 2, Carter 3-9 4-4 11, Davis 3-9 2-2 11, L.Loehr 1-5 0-0 3, Njoku 1-2 4-5 6, Mannion 0-3 0-0 0, Pearson 0-1 0-0 0, Antonelli 1-2 0-0 3, Summers 0-2 0-0 0, Burnett 1-4 0-0 2, Strong 3-5 1-1 8. Totals 14-54 15-17 50.
Halftime—Brown 32-23. 3-Point Goals—Brown 9-27 (Cambridge 5-11, Anderson 2-5, Howard 1-1, Sullivan 1-3, Mitchell 0-1, Shaughnessy 0-1, Choh 0-1, Hunsaker 0-2, Mawanda-Kalema 0-2), Navy 7-24 (Davis 3-6, Antonelli 1-1, Strong 1-3, L.Loehr 1-4, Carter 1-4, Pearson 0-1, Mannion 0-2, Abdullah 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Brown 33 (Choh 8), Navy 32 (Carter, Wieck 5). Assists—Brown 20 (Anderson 7), Navy 8 (Burnett 2). Total Fouls—Brown 22, Navy 15. A—671 (5,710).