Navy men’s basketball is not spending much time inside the friendly confines of Alumni Hall during the nonconference portion of the schedule.
Due to a variety of scheduling issues, the Midshipmen are playing only five home games during the months of November and December. However, the Mids are making the most of their few opportunities in front of a partisan crowd.
Senior forward Tyler Nelson shot the lights out in scoring 18 points as Navy routed Mount St. Mary’s, 75-59, to remain unbeaten at Alumni Hall. Nelson made 7 of 8 shots, including all four his 3-point attempts, in falling one point shy of his career high.
Nelson tied a career-best for 3-pointers in a game, evidence his focus on perimeter shooting has produced results.
“Over the offseason I made it a point to add that aspect to my game and really improve that,” he said. “I feel like the hard work is starting to pay off. I just have to keep being aggressive.”
Freshman wing Kam Summers was equally efficient in totaling 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting for Navy (5-1), which now hits the road for the next four games. Senior forward Daniel Deaver was 6-for-9 from the field in netting 12 points on a variety of nifty post moves for the Midshipmen, who have now beaten the Mountaineers in four straight seasons.
Austin Inge took the ball strong to the basket in scoring all eight of his points in the second half for Navy, which placed eight players in the scoring column. The Mids shared the ball well in amassing 16 assists on 32 baskets with Deaver dishing out six and freshman point guard Austin Benigni adding five.
“We had 16 assists and only eight turnovers, so offensively that was good. We had 10 offensive rebounds … I like that,” Navy coach Ed DeChellis said.
“Our chemistry on and off the court is great and I think that gives us an edge over other teams,” said Nelson, noting Navy has eight seniors. “We also have a lot of people who can really pass the ball.”
Navy converted those offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points and scored another 19 off the 14 turnovers committed by Mount St. Mary’s. The Midshipmen have primarily employed half-court offense under DeChellis, but he has given the players more freedom to run this season.
“If they get a steal they can go and try to convert. We’re trying to get from defense to offense a little better,” he said. “You just have to trust that they’re going to make the right decisions. Austin Inge and Austin Benigni have been pretty good about pushing the ball and making good decisions.”
Navy plays only one more home game in 2022, hosting Washington College on Dec. 17. Patriot League play will be underway by the time the Mids return to Alumni Hall on Jan. 3.
“Scheduling has become brutal. It was hard to get home games, to be honest,” DeChellis said. “We’re coming off a couple good seasons and we have a lot of seniors, so people weren’t all that anxious to schedule [Navy].”
Senior guard Jalen Benjamin scored 12 points to pace Mount St. Mary’s (3-4), which has lost eight straight games against Patriot League opponents. Junior guard Dakota Leffew (10 points) was the only other player in double figures for the Mount, which plays its first game as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on Thursday at Saint Peter’s.
Mount St. Mary’s endured several scoring droughts that lasted two minutes or more. Nelson said the Midshipmen take pride in “stringing together defensive stops.”
“In practice we have this drill called stop, score, stop. We just keep trying to repeat that pattern for however long we can,” he said. “That’s something we hold dear — defense.”
The Mountaineers are in the midst of five straight road games, three of which came on the opposite end of the country. After losing a close contest at Southern California (83-74), Mount St. Mary’s beat Cal-Poly (73-68) on Sunday then Pacific (69-65) on Tuesday.
“We were coming off a West Coast trip and had a quick turnaround. I do think it showed tonight. Our guys looked tired out there,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan Engelstad said.
Engelstad knew the Mountaineers needed to match the physicality of the Midshipmen and also hold their own on the boards. Both goals were dealt a blow when graduate student Malik Jefferson got into early foul trouble. The rugged 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward wound up playing just under 11 minutes and scored only two points, leaving Jefferson one shy of 1,000 for his career.
“It would have been nice to have your fifth-year guy who does so much for our program in there,” Engelstad said.
Deaver and Nelson both had 10 points as Navy took a 35-24 halftime lead. Defense was the key as Mount St. Mary’s was held to 38% (10-for-26) shooting.
Nelson scored off an offensive rebound then drained a 3-pointer from the corner to cap a 12-2 run that gave Navy a 27-14 lead with 7:36 remaining in the first half. Benjamin finished drives to the basket on consecutive possessions as the Mount responded with an 8-0 run that forced DeChellis to call timeout. The Midshipmen regrouped and answered with an 8–0 run of their own.
Nelson started the second half on fire, nailing a three and finishing an alley-oop off an inbounds pass in scoring eight points as Navy took a commanding 47-30 lead by the first media timeout (15:05).
There was no letup, and Navy led by as many as 21 in cruising the rest of the way. Mount St. Mary’s was simply unable to put together enough defensive stops to jump-start any sort of rally.
“We pride ourselves on defense and I didn’t think we were very disciplined today,” Engelstad said. “When they get up, they’re extremely hard to come back on — just because of their discipline and how late they’re going to run down the shot clock.”
Navy at Lipscomb
Radio: 1430 AM
Mount St. Mary’s at Saint Peter’s
Thursday, 7 p.m.