WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The Navy men's basketball team went on a 12-0 run in the first half and led basically from start to finish in topping Army, 59-50, at Christl Arena in West Point on Sunday afternoon.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Midshipmen, improving their record to 7-12 overall and 1-2 in the Patriot League. Army, which entered the game 6-1 at home, fell to 8-10 overall and 1-2 in league play.
The Navy win also prevented the Black Knights from winning three straight games in the series for the first time since the mid-late 1970s.
The story of the contest was Navy's proficiency from long distance. The Midshipmen went 11-of-23 from three-point range while six different players hit trifectas. Army, which entered the game shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range, went just 2-of-20, including 0-of-12 in the second half.
"I'm really proud of our team. I thought we had great toughness, rebounded the ball well and got on the floor after loose balls. That is what we need to do to be successful," said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis, whose squad snapped a 16-game Patriot League losing streak, while earning his first Patriot League victory. "And we had some guys make some shots. To get 30 points off the bench is tremendous, and the bench really gave us a lift today. We aren't a potent offensive team, so we have to rebound and defend and make toughness plays to win."
The bench provided a huge lift for DeChellis, scoring 30 of
Navy's 59 points while going 9-of-18 from the field and 7-of-12 from
long distance. Leading the Navy bench was Kevin Alter (So. / Rumson, N.J.), who scored 14 points while going 4-of-5 from long distance in just 22 minutes of action.
"Coming off last year with two tough losses, we just wanted some redemption. Coach said it all. We got all the 50-50 balls and that was a huge part of this game. We have seen it in spurts, but we played hard and tough for all 40 minutes," said Alter.
"We showed that we have it in us now. It's about taking this effort to the next game and the one after that," said Worth Smith (So. / Mooresville, N.C.). "It feels good that it finally came about in a rivalry game, but now it's about executing and keeping the momentum going."
Navy trailed early, but took control with a 9-1 run to grab a 12-8 advantage with 9:35 to play. Army whittled the lead to 17-14, but the Midshipmen, fueled by the 5-7 Alter, used a 14-1 spurt for a 31-15 halftime lead. Alter scored eight of Navy's 14 points during the run, including a pair of long three-pointers to push Navy's lead to 16 points.
Army scored the last eight points of the half to trim the margin to 31-23.
The Black Knights continued their run in the second half, eventually ending a 18-3 run on a three-point play by Dylan Cox, trimming the Navy lead to 34-33 with 13:44 to play. Army had a chance to take the lead on its next possession, but missed a pair of free throws and freshman Phil Guglielmo (Springfield, Va.) would bury a clutch three-pointer on Navy's ensuing possession to push the lead back to four points, 37-33. The trifecta would kick-start an 11-1 run capped off by Alter's fourth three-pointer of the contest, which gave Navy a 45-34 lead with 10:34 to play.
"Those were some really big shots. Very timely," DeChellis said. "We had been struggling to get going in the second half and those three three-pointers by Phil, Worth and Kevin really got us going again. We weathered the storm and made the next play."
Army would get to within eight points several times, aided significantly by Navy's 7-of-17 performance from the free throw line in the final five minutes. But the Navy defense, which drew five charges on the day, held tight and Army would make just 3-of-11 shots in the same span as Navy topped the Black Knights, 59-50.
Navy would shoot just 18-of-54 (.333) from the field, but went 11-of-23 (.478) from three-point range and just 12-of-24 (.500) from the free throw line. Navy outrebounded the Black Knights, 41-39, and had just nine turnovers.
Army was 15-of-48 (.313) from the field, 2-of-20 (.100) from long distance and 18-of-29 (.621) from the free throw line. Army had just four assists against 12 turnovers.
Smith led Navy with 16 points, one off his career high, with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. In the decisive second half, Smith had 10 points (3-of-4 FGs, 2-of-2 3Ps) and seven rebounds. Alter would contribute 14 points, while Guglielmo added eight points (3-of-5 FGs, 2-of-3 3Ps). Tilman Dunbar (Fr. / Woodbridge, Va.) had six points, six rebounds and three assists.
"We were looking for points and Kevin got hot. We see it in practice and he can really get going. We told him to keep shooting it and we will tell him when to stop," said DeChellis.
Ella Ellis, who came into the game averaging 17.6 points per game, led Army with 15 but went just 4-of-12 from the field and 1-of-6 from three-point range. Freshman Kyle Wilson had 11 points while classmate Dylan Cox tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"I don't think we did anything special on defense. We just wanted to step in there and take some charges, because they will bring the ball to you sometimes," said DeChellis. "We just tried to make everything they did tough for them today. At the end of the day, we made some big shots, which led to our defense."
Navy will head to the Nation's Capital on Wednesday for a 7:30 PM tip at American's Bender Arena. The contest will be televised by Comcast Sportsnet.