ANNAPOLIS | Navy’s basketball team was bombarded for two days with warnings about three players who could hurt the Midshipmen in their annual home meeting with Army.
The Midshipmen did little to stop the Black Knights’ three stars on Saturday —- with predictable results for a reeling team.
Army authored a 75-62 rout at Alumni Hall, its largest margin of victory in Annapolis since 1971.
Ella Ellis (19 points), Julian Simmons (18 points) and Josh Herbeck (15 points) reached double figures for the Black Knights, who got 11 of their 13 3-pointers from their top three players.
“We didn’t do a good job communicating or remembering what we practiced the last two days,” Navy forward J.J. Avila said. “We didn’t have a very good practice two days ago and yesterday we had a pretty good one. We reverted back to that first one. There was no communication.”
One image was communicated quite well to the Mids (3-14, 0-3 Patriot): The sight of Army (8-10, 1-2) taking in its alma mater after Navy, the telltale sign of a crushing day against a service academy rival.
In truth, the order of musical interludes was long determined before the final buzzer as the Mids stumbled to their 10th consecutive loss.
Army’s first 18 points came on 3-pointers, all by the three players Navy coach Ed DeChellis pleaded with his players to aggressively defend over the previous two days.
“Right at the beginning, I saw guys playing off us a little bit and we were just getting open looks and we were just knocking them down,” Simmons said. “I knew they were going to get up on us later in the game, and shots were falling, so it was good we were taking those shots and taking good shots.”
It didn’t hurt initially, since the Mids —- with more than a little residue of their past affinity for perimeter shooting remaining —- made some early 3-pointers as well.
It didn’t last, and Navy wound up a meager 4-for-16 from outside in the first half. It went 10 possessions without a point, committing five turnovers along the way as Army built a 34-17 edge.
Even though the Mids closed within 35-24 at the break, the second half barely went any better. Navy had an opportunity to trim the deficit to seven or eight with around 11 minutes to play, but missed a 3-pointer and then committed a turnover off the ensuing offensive rebound.
The Black Knights quickly stretched the lead back to 16, and the Mids were essentially playing to avoid surpassing their largest home loss ever to Army —- a 51-35 setback in 1969. Army led 74-52 with six minutes left before Navy closed the gap a bit in a sloppy final six minutes.
“We didn’t do a very good job tonight, obviously,” DeChellis said. “We got our butts beat by a team that played better.”
Indeed, not much went remotely well besides a stout game from Avila (21 points, 14 rebounds, six steals). Senior guard Jordan Sugars did nearly half of his offensive damage at the foul line. Only four players managed to score at least eight points.
It underscored a major issue behind the Mids’ calamitous 1-14 slide since winning their first two games: Offensive options beyond Avila and Sugars remain inconsistent at best and nonexistent when things go especially awry. Saturday was an extreme example of the latter.
“The other guys —- nothing,” DeChellis said. “There was nothing there. Points, rebounds, score, defensively. We have to try to get some other guys playing better.”
—- Patrick Stevens