NORFOLK, VA -- Norfolk State built a 26-point lead, then withstood a furious Midshipmen rally to hand the Navy men's basketball team a 74-68 setback on Saturday afternoon at Echols Hall.
The loss drops Navy to 6-10 overall as the Mids wrapped up non-conference play. Norfolk State, last year's MEAC champion and third-round NCAA Tournament participant, improved to 7-10 overall.
Navy trailed 54-28 with 13 minutes to play, and 56-34 with 10:22 to play when head coach Ed DeChellis inserted sophomore guard Kevin Alter (Rumson, N.J.) into the ballgame. Alter ignited a rally with six three-pointers in a 10-minute span that saw Navy cut Norfolk State's lead from 26 (54-28) to six (71-65) with 13 seconds left.
But Pendarvis Williams buried a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left and Navy could get no closer than five points at 73-68 with eight seconds left on Alter's sixth trifecta of the contest as Norfolk State held off the Midshipmen, 74-68.
Alter entered the game having scored just 35 career points with seven career three-pointers. He surpassed his career high of six points with his third three-pointer with six minutes to play and finished with a career-high 18 points and three assists in just 10 minutes of action. He finished 6-of-10 from the field, all from three-point distance.
"I'm really happy for him. He is an early guy and a late guy. He comes in early and stays late. He was feeling it tonight and fueled our comeback," said DeChellis. "He is a great young man with great leadership skills and he earned some more time tonight. Hopefully, it will be a wake-up call for some other guys."
Navy struggled immensely on both ends early on, as NSU sprinted out to a 17-4 cushion just seven minutes into the contest while shooting 5-of-7 from the field while the Midshipmen were just 2-of-12 during the same span.
The Midshipmen would trim the margin to 19-11 on a Tilman Dunbar
(Fr. / Woodbridge, Va.) jumper with 10:10 remaining in the first half,
but the Spartans countered with a 20-6 burst to grab a 39-17 lead with
3:29 to play, before settling for a 44-22 halftime advantage.
Norfolk State would shoot 15-of-24 (.625) from the field and 9-of-15 (.600) from three-point range in the first half, while Navy was 9-fo-27 (.333) from the field and 4-of-12 (.333) from deep. In addition, Navy had eight turnovers and was outrebounded, 15-11.
"We just ask the guys to do one thing and that is to give us everything they have and we did that the last 10 minutes. The first half we were just walking around. You can't play the game that way. We didn't compete the way we needed to compete," said DeChellis. "The last 10-12 minutes we put some new guys in there and we said, `Let it go and go out there and compete and have fun.' We played the way Navy is supposed to play the last 10 minutes."
For the contest, Navy shot 26-of-63 (.413) from the field, 12-of-30 (.400) from three-point range and just 4-of-6 (.667) from the free throw line, all coming in the second half. Navy had 14 turnovers and rebounds were even at 29.
Norfolk State shot 24-of-44 (.545) from the field, 9-of-22 (.409) from three-point range and 17-of-26 (.654) from the free throw line. Norfolk State was guilty of 17 turnovers.
The Spartans were 0-of-7 from three-point range in the second half after going 9-of-15 in the first half.
Alter led the Midshipmen with 18 points and three assists in just 10 minutes of action. Dunbar added 12 points and three assists, while Worth Smith (So. / Mooresville, N.C.) narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Kendall Knorr (Fr. / Concord, N.C.) added nine points on three triples and Brennan Wyatt (Jr. / Greensboro, N.C.) recorded five points and five assists.
Navy's bench scored 41 of its 68 points, shooting 11-of-24 from three-point range.
Williams (21), Malcolm Hawkins (17) and Rob Johnson (15) combined for 53 of NSU's 74 points by going a combined 18-of-28 from the field and 9-of-17 from three-point range.
Navy opens Patriot League play next Saturday (Jan. 12) in Easton, Pa., against Lafayette, beginning at 2:00 PM.