The Navy men's basketball team's 67-42 loss to Virginia Tuesday night was a showcase for two players moving in opposite directions.
Junior shooting guard Brandon Venturini led the Midshipmen (2-3) with 15 points, including four three-pointers. He has scored at least 10 points in his last four contests and leads the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game.
Venturini, who averaged 8.8 points per game and shot 34.7 percent (101-of-291) from the floor last season, is converting 45.7 percent (21-of-46) thus far and has been Navy's most consistent performer.
"I think he's been very solid," coach Ed DeChellis said Wednesday afternoon. "Last night, he was one of the guys that was very solid. [Sophomore point guard] Tilman Dunbar was very solid. [Sophomore center] Will Kelly was very solid. Now we've got to get the other guys to be more solid. I think Brandon has played pretty good basketball. … I think he's done a very nice job for us."
On the opposite end of the spectrum is junior forward Worth Smith, who led the team in scoring (10.2 points per game) and rebounding (5.4) last winter. This season, those averages have dropped to 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Smith was shut out in Navy's loss to the Cavaliers, going 0-of-6 from the field. He has scored just seven points in his last two starts against Binghamton on Saturday and Virginia.
Asked what has been plaguing Smith, DeChellis said: "That's a good question. He's struggling. Played as bad as I've seen him play last night. You pencil guys in terms of some consistency, and he's a guy at the four spot who can stretch a defense, make an open jump shot, and rebound the ball. We haven't had production out of him that we need.
"That's been disappointing. We've got to get him right and get him playing bettter if we're going to improve as a program and as a team. The guy has played two years and has some experience, and he needs to play better."
DeChellis said he has faith Smith will get out of this current shooting rut, but he also said the team is relying on Smith to rebound.
"[W]e need him to play better and he can play better," DeChellis said. "I've seen it every day in practice. He's a very good basketball player, and we've got to go through him, and we've got to get him to play better. That's my job, to get him to play better."