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Navy Men's Basketball Struggles Late in Loss at Lehigh

Will Kelly

Feb. 19, 2014

Box Score

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh (14-14, 7-8 PL) outscored Navy (9-17, 4-11 PL) 11-0 in the final three minutes to rally for a 72-65 victory at Stabler Arena on Wednesday evening. Navy led by as much as 10 points in the game and by four points in the closing minutes but costly turnovers and a lack of defensive stops late in the game spoiled its opportunity to pick up a road win over the Mountain Hawks.

"I thought we played pretty well tonight, but you have to be able to finish the games," said head coach Ed DeChellis. "The last three minutes was a challenge for us. We got excited and we turned the ball over late and we didn't get shots at the basket. The plays were there for us to make but we just didn't make them."

For the second game in a row Navy turned in its best shooting performance of the season by making 54.9 percent (28-of-51) of its field goals. The Mids shot an impressive 65.4 percent (17-of-26) in the first half en route to a 41-34 halftime advantage.

Sophomore center Will Kelly led Navy with a career-high 19 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Kelly was 8-of-10 from the field and posted his second double-double of the season.

"I thought (Will) played really well tonight," said DeChellis. "Brandon Venturini did a nice job finding him for some dunks off some ball-screen action. I thought Will played his best game of the season and I'm proud of him and the things he has been able to do."

After a Kelly layup and a Venturini free throw, Navy pulled ahead by four at 65-61 with 2:52 remaining in the game. On Lehigh's next possession, freshman center Tim Kempton scored a three-point play after being fouled on a made layup by Zach Fong. Kelly then missed the front-end of a one-and-one on the other end after getting fouled. Lehigh's Jesse Chuku hit a short jumper to put hosts up by one at 66-65 with two minutes remaining. Chuku's shot would be the 19th and final lead change of the game.



Venturini turned the ball over on Navy's next possession while trying to drive the baseline, but sophomore Kendall Knorr blocked Justin Goldsborough's layup to give the ball back to Navy, still down one with under a minute to go. However on the ensuing possession, Venturini threw a pass out of the reach of Fong and out of bounds.

Navy was forced to foul and Corey Schaefer made two free throws to push the lead to three. Fong just missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining and after Mackey McKnight got the defensive rebound, he was fouled and made a pair of free throws. Venturini tried to get a 3-pointer up on the other end but Chuku's defense ended up forcing a turnover and McKnight finished the scoring with two more free throws for the 72-65 final.

It was the second time this season that Lehigh rallied late to defeat the Mids. Navy led by two with under a minute to play in Annapolis on January 22, but Lehigh came back for the 68-66 overtime win.

In a sign of things to come in Wednesday's game, Kelly scored on Navy's first possession off a smooth pick-and-roll with Knorr and then threw down a two-handed dunk on Navy's next possession for a quick 4-0 lead.

After going back-and-forth, Lehigh pulled ahead at 22-19, but Navy answered with an 8-2 run to stake a 27-24 edge.

Lehigh made a run to briefly pull ahead at 31-29 after a 3-pointer by Stefan Cvrkalj, but Fong buried a 3-pointer on the next possession to ignite a 12-0 Navy run. Kelly made two free throws and then Venturini found an open Worth Smith for a breakaway dunk. Venturini hit a 3-pointer and then Knorr connected on a jumper for a 10-point lead, but McKnight hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to 41-34.

Lehigh carried momentum from McKnight's buzzer-beater into the second half by opening on a 7-2 run. Kelly then turned the momentum back to Navy by throwing down dunks on back-to-back plays. The two plays were nearly mirror images as Venturini used a Kelly ball-screen to drive into the lane and then dished a bounce pass back to a rolling Kelly who finished off his second and third dunks of the night.

Schaefer scored on the next possession and neither team was able to lead by more than four until Lehigh's late free throws sealed the seven-point win.

Smith finished with 12 points and six rebounds while playing 39 minutes. Fong had 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and Venturini had 10 points and seven assists in 37 minutes.

McKnight and Schaefer each had 15 points for Lehigh while Chuku and Kempton each scored 11. McKnight also had a game-high nine assists.

Navy will play at Holy Cross on Sunday at 12 noon before finishing the regular season with home games against American (Feb. 26) and Loyola (March 1) next week.

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