ANNAPOLIS —- Navy’s transition from an up-tempo team with a quick trigger on the perimeter to a more patient outfit that emphasizes defense isn’t entirely smooth.
Sometimes, though, it works just fine.
Such was the case Sunday night when the Midshipmen upended Mount St. Mary’s 64-56 at Alumni Hall to snap a four-game losing streak.
“It felt like things were coming together,” guard Jordan Sugars said. “We just have to make sure we take a step forward and not digress or go back to our old habits.”
Granted, the Mountaineers (1-4) are about as raw as Navy (3-4) is this season. But there were signs of progress for a team a little more than a week removed from a flop at Quinnipiac.
The Mids followed that up with a tight loss to a vastly more talented Tulane team, then nearly rallied to knock off Albany on Friday. Then came Sunday, when Navy did two of the three things coach Ed DeChellis prizes most from start to finish.
The Mids held a rebounding advantage and managed an impressive 37.9 offensive rebounding percentage. They forced 20 turnovers and limited an opponent to less than 60 points for the third time in as many home games.
If there was slippage, it was in their own ballhandling. Navy had 16 turnovers —- 11 in the second half —- as they watched a 14-point lead whittled down to 57-54 entering the final three minutes.
“That’s kind of been an Achilles’ heel for the first seven games this year,” DeChellis said. “We just throw the ball away. I think once we figure that out and we value each possession and guys play with each other a little more, hopefully the turnovers will start to decrease.”
It helped to have an answer after the Mount pulled within a possession for the first time in the second half. Sugars (15 points, 11 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, and Navy’s lead never dropped below five the rest of the way.
There were signs, of course, of the Mids’ youth. Sophomore Thurgood Wynn, who made his first career start in place of an ill Isaiah Roberts, missed a fastbreak layup with 17 seconds left and Navy leading 62-55 rather than pull back and have the Mountaineers attempt to foul.
DeChellis was flabbergasted, exclaiming “What are you doing?” while leaning against the scorer’s table. But between his own team’s inexperience and a crammed schedule —- Sunday was the seventh game in 17 days —- it probably wasn’t a giant surprise.
“We haven’t had time to work on stuff,” DeChellis said.
Still, the Mids are hovering around .500 with four of the next five on the road. Navy was competitive in all but one game, and it is coming off a solid start-to-finish performance.
No, it wasn’t entirely smooth. But the Mids are moving forward.
“Besides the second half turning the ball over, we really played a good game,” Sugars said.
—- Patrick Stevens