ANNAPOLIS, MD - Northern Kentucky used an 11-0 run midway through the second half and made five-of-seven free throws in the final three minutes to hand the Navy men's basketball team a 55-46 setback at Alumni Hall on Saturday afternoon.
The loss drops Navy to 6-7 overall, snapping its modest three-game homecourt winning streak. Northern Kentucky, in its first year playing Division I basketball and playing its eighth road game of the season, improved to 2-6 overall winning its second straight game.
"We played horrendous today, but we saw this coming for three days. As a coach, you feel helpless when you can't get their attention and we played like we practiced the last three days," said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. "We aren't going to use any excuses. I was very disappointed with our effort today and how we played."
"There is no excuse for the way we played today. I guess we weren't mature enough to separate the things we had to do today and weren't mature enough to focus today," said Navy sophomore guard Brandon Venturini (Allendale, Mich.). "We really struggled in the second half and coach told us what we needed to do at halftime and we just didn't do what he asked. We just didn't execute anything today."
Navy trailed for most of the second half, but took a 38-37 lead with 8:36 to play on a Tilman Dunbar (Fr. / Woodbridge, Va.) three-point play, but the Norse's Ernest Watson scored the next 11 points, nine of them coming on back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in a span of 3:07 to give NKU a 48-38 advantage with 4:57 to play.
Watson, a Washington, D.C., native, entered the game 1-of-7 from three-point range in the first seven games of the year, but went 3-of-4 today.
Navy would get to within 48-43 on a Venturini three-pointer with 3:54 to play and had a chance to get closer, but Nebraska transfer Eshaunte Jones rebounded his own three-point miss and would connect on two free throws on the next possession to push the lead back to seven points and Navy would get no closer than six points (52-46) the rest of the way as the Norse settled for a 55-46 decision.
"I really felt we missed a golden opportunity to get above .500 for the season and carry some momentum into the break," said DeChellis. "We have a very good Albany team coming in to Alumni Hall next Friday and we are going to have to play a lot better against them."
The two teams would trade leads early on, but the Midshipmen used an 11-2 run to take a 19-10 lead with 6:59 to play in the opening half, fueled by back-to-back three-pointers by Brennan Wyatt (Jr. / Greensboro, N.C.). But Navy struggled the rest of the way, going the last four minutes without a point as the Norse rallied to tie the game at halftime, 23-23.
Navy shot 19-of-51 (.373) from the field, including just 9-of-29 (.310) in the second half. The Midshipmen were 5-of-13 (.385) from three-point range and just 3-of-6 (.500) from the free throw line. Navy had just eight assists against nine turnovers and was outrebounded badly, 35-20.
Northern Kentucky entered the game shooting 37.4 percent from the field but became just the second team (UAB) to shoot 50.0 percent against Navy as it hit 19-of-38 field goal attempts (.500). The Norse were 5-of-14 (.357) from three-point range and 12-of-18 (.667) from the free throw line.
The Norse outscored Navy, 13-2, in second-chance points to offset their 20 turnovers. Navy outscored the Norse, 26-5, in points off turnovers.
Dunbar led Navy with 12 points and two assists, but was just 5-of-15 from the field. Venturini added 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, but was 3-of-6 from three-point range. Wyatt and Worth Smith (So. / Mooresville, N.C.) added eight points, while Will Kelly (Fr. / Mount Laurel, N.J.) led Navy with eight rebounds.
Watson scored 19 for the Norse, while Jalen Billups added 14 points (7-of-7 FGs) and nine rebounds and Jones tallied 13 points and seven assists.
Navy will be off for six days before hosting a strong Albany squad on Friday, December 28, at Alumni Hall, beginning at 7:00 PM.