ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy men's basketball team outscored American, 7-2, in the final three minutes and the Midshipmen made several big plays down the stretch to lift them to a 50-44 decision over American on Wednesday night at Alumni Hall.
The win moves Navy's record to 8-19 overall and 2-9 in the Patriot League, while American falls to 10-16 overall and 5-6 in league play. The Midshipmen ended a four-game losing streak to the Eagles and won for just the fifth time in 27 tries against the Eagles since American joined the Patriot League before the 2001-02 season.
Navy led 43-42 with 4:28 to play after American's Tony Wroblicky scored on a rebound putback, but the Mids countered with seven straight points, including a breakaway dunk by junior Thurgood Wynn (Bethesda, Md.) with 32 seconds left to give Navy a 48-42 lead and essentially put the game out of reach.
Navy would salt away the game by making 5-of-7 free throws in the final 2:46 while holding American to just one field goal in five attempts during the same span.
"I told the guys I am really proud of them. We got stung at home against Army the other day and to bounce back and playing the way we played tonight is a testament to them," said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. "I thought our effort defensively and rebounding, especially the last four minutes of the game, was outstanding. American is a good team with very good players, so this is a good win for us tonight."
"This win definitely gives us some confidence and we finally got over the hump. We can see the greener side of the grass and we can really build off this effort," said Navy freshman guard Tilman Dunbar (Woodbridge, Va.).
Navy surged to a 21-12 halftime lead after holding American to just 4-of-18 field goals in the first half. The 12 points allowed were the third-fewest scored by an opponent in school history. Navy outrebounded the Eagles, 19-14, while holding John Schoof, who scored 27 points in the first meeting, to zero shots in the first half.
Schoof would finish the game with just three points on 1-of-2 shooting from the field.
"We ran some different guys on him. Wynn, Brandon Venturini (So. / Allendale, Mich.), Kendall Knorr (Fr. / Concord, N.C.) all guarded him tonight and did a fantastic job. He burned us up in the first game, so we were definitely aware of him. He is a good player and we couldn't let him get loose," said DeChellis.
Navy would push the lead to 28-17 on a short jumper by Wynn with 17:41 to play, but the Eagles went on a 13-2 sprint to tie the game at 30 with 13:17 to play. The Eagles, however, were never able to gain the lead as Navy recovered and would push the margin back to 41-36 on a pair of free throws by Dunbar with 9:29 to play.
American cut the lead to one twice more, the last coming at 43-42 with 4:28 to play, but Navy's 7-0 run put the game away helping Navy to its second league win of the year.
Navy shot 19-of-48 (.396) from the field, 4-of-12 (.333) from three-point range and 8-of-13 (.615) from the free throw line. The Midshipmen were guilty of 10 turnovers, including just seven in the last 36 minutes of play after having three in the first four minutes.
Navy also outrebounded the Eagles, 35-31, marking just the second time in 27 games since American joined the Patriot League in 2001-02, and first time since Jan. 14, 2004, that Navy has outrebounded the Eagles.
American was 16-of-45 (.356) from the field, 4-of-13 (.308) from three-point range and 8-of-15 (.533) from the free throw line. American was credited with nine turnovers.
American's 44 points were the fewest scored against Navy since Dec. 5, 1961, a span of 63 games. It was also tied for the fewest points that American has ever scored in a Patriot League regular-season contest.
Venturini led the Midshipmen with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists against no turnovers in 35 minutes. Dunbar added 12 points and five assists, moving into ninth place on the school's freshman scoring list with 268 points. Wynn would tally 11 points, six rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes. Worth Smith (So. / Mooresville, N.C.) added eight points and Will Kelly (Fr. / Mount Laurel, N.J.) scored six points with 13 rebounds, one block and two steals in a fine all-around performance.
Kelly's 13 rebounds are tied for the seventh most by a freshman in school history and the second most by a freshman in a Patriot League game. Since 1983 (Vernon Butler era), only Alex Kohnen (17 vs. Lehigh on Feb. 6, 1993) had more rebounds as a freshman in a game than Kelly did against American.
"I thought Will Kelly was outstanding tonight. He had a really big challenge tonight inside, but he played very well battling with their big guys. Venturini and Wynn were outstanding on the perimeter as well on both offense and defense. They made some shots and had 12 rebounds between them. We have been preaching that our guards need to rebound the ball and they did a nice job of that," said DeChellis.
Daniel Munoz led American with 15 points and Stephen Lumpkins had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Navy hits the road for its next two games, traveling to Colgate on Sunday for a noon tip-off in Hamilton, N.Y. The game will be available to watch online on Navy All-Access only with no Navy radio offered.