Jan. 28, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Bucknell opened up a 38-23 halftime lead and the Navy men's basketball team could get no closer than 11 points in the second half as the visiting Bison topped the Midshipmen, 66-51, on Saturday night in front of 3,718 fans at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The loss dropped Navy to 3-18 overall and 0-7 in the Patriot League, while Bucknell improved to 17-6 overall and 7-0 in the league standings. Bucknell has won a country-best 17 straight games against league competition.
The crowd of 3,718 was the ninth-largest non-Army crowd in Alumni Hall history.
Navy started strong, jumping out to an early 6-2 lead, but the Bison responded by holding Navy scoreless for the next nine minutes, using a 13-0 run to take control of the game at 15-6 with 9:07 to play. Navy got to within seven at 19-12 with 6:57 to play in the opening stanza, before Bucknell used another 11-2 run for a 30-14 advantage with 4:54 to play.
Navy would play the Bison even the rest of the way, but the hole was too great to overcome. Bucknell shot 55.2 percent from the field in the first half with just four turnovers, while Navy shot just 33.3 percent from the field with nine turnovers.
"Bucknell really played well in the first half. They shot the ball well, had good movement and made open shots. They are a very, very good basketball team. Muscala is a special player and when they need a basket, they went to him," said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. "Shooting covers a multitude of sins and they can shoot. They don't have a lot of kinks in their armor."
Navy trailed 38-23 at the break, but scored the first four points of the second half to cut the lead to 11 at 38-27 with 18:09 to play. Navy drew within 12 points four different times in the second half, but missed several opportunities to cut into the lead even more as the lead would fluctuate between 11 and 17 points during the entire second half.
"Anytime in the second half that we had a chance to get it under 10 or make a big play, we would miss a big shot. We missed some open looks in both halves that we need to make to beat a team like Bucknell," said DeChellis. "They are a good team, but you have to close the gap and put a little pressure on them. When you are up 13 or 14 points, the shots are a little easier to make than when you are up eight or nine points."
Navy cranked up the defensive pressure in the second half, holding Bucknell to 45.5 percent shooting from the field while turning the ball over eight times. Navy, meanwhile, shot 38.7 percent in the second half and had just two turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
"In the second half, I thought we guarded pretty well and drove the ball better. I thought we missed some easy shots that could have maybe made the game closer and given us a chance. But it would take a special effort by us to beat them," added DeChellis.
For the game, Navy shot 20-of-55 (.364) from the field and was 9-of-10 (.900) from the free throw line. The Midshipmen made just 3-of-19 (.158) from the three-point line. Not including Isaiah Roberts' (So. / Pennsauken, N.J.) 2-of-2 three-point effort, the rest of the team went 1-of-17 from three-point range. Navy had 11 turnovers in the contest and was outrebounded, 34-27.
Bucknell shot 26-of-51 (.510) from the field, 4-of-13 (.308) from three-point range and made all 10 of its free throw attempts. Bucknell had 12 turnovers in the contest.
Freshman Worth Smith (Mooresville, N.C.) had an outstanding game, scoring a career-high 16 points with nine rebounds and a blocked shot. Playing 26 minutes with a stress reaction in his right foot, he went 7-of-10 from the field and had six offensive rebounds among his nine caroms.
"Worth played well tonight. He needs to wear a boot in his spare time and he won't do much until next Wednesday," said DeChellis. "He practiced about 15 minutes yesterday. For a freshman trying to do this without any practice time, I thought he played well and had a lot of bounce and energy. He's a great kid, he's active and made some shots. Maybe we should put them all in walking boots."
Roberts matched his career high with 13 points off the bench, adding two assists and a steal in 30 minutes while shooting 5-of-10 from the field. Roberts and Smith went 12-of-20 from the field for 29 points, while the rest of the team went 8-of-35 from the field for 22 points.
"Isaiah Roberts and Worth Smith played well tonight. We needed someone else to go with them. We need them all to put it together on the same night and the wins will come," said DeChellis. "When you lose games in a row, your confidence starts to waver, but we have had good spirits and are generally excited to play. That is one thing that has not changed."
Bucknell was led by 2011 Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala with 27 points on 11-of-15 field goal attempts and eight rebounds. Bryan Cohen tallied 12 points with three rebounds and two assists.
Navy will now be off for a week, traveling to Lafayette next Saturday for a 1:00 pm tip in Easton, Pa.
# GO NAVY #