ANNAPOLIS, Md. --J.J. Avila scored 14 points to lead four Navy players in double figures and the Navy men's basketball team never trailed in cruising past Penn State Altoona, 88-54, in the home opener on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Hall.
The win improves Navy's record to 2-0 overall, while Penn State Altoona was playing in its season opener. The Mids' 2-0 start is the first for the program since the 2002-03 team also started 2-0.
"I thought we did some good things this evening, and like any early-season game, I thought we did some not-so-good things," said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis, who becomes the first coach to open his Navy career 2-0 since Naismith Hall of Famer Ben Carnavale started his Navy career 2-0 in the 1946-47 season. "We are trying to emphasize to the team that we need to make more positive plays than negative plays. We really weren't looking at the score tonight, but were looking for execution and I thought we executed fairly well for the most part."
Navy led from its opening offensive possession after a Avila three-pointer and never led by less than 10 points in the final 31:33 of the contest. The Mids held a 16-7 advantate with 11:50 to play before going on a 13-0 run fueled by four points each by freshman Donya Jackson (Baltimore, Md.) and sophomore Thurgood Wynn (Bethesda, Md.) to give the Mids a 29-7 advantage with 9:27 to play. Navy would push the first-half cushion to as much as 29 points on a Jordan Brickman (Jr. / San Antonio, Texas) jumper with 1:26 to play for a 47-18 lead before settling in for a 49-21 halftime cushion.
Penn State Altoona would cut the lead to 65-40 on an Eric Sarra jumper with 10:54 left, but the Midshipmen responded with a 16-0 run capped off by a Brandon Venturini (Fr. / Allendale, Mich.) three-pointer with 7:05 left to give Navy an 81-40 advantage. Penn State would get no closer than 30 the rest of the way and Navy breezed in for its most-lopsided victory in almost five years.
Navy shot 35-of-62 (.565) from the field, 6-of-18 (.333) from three-point range and 12-of-17 (.706) from the free throw line in the victory. The Mids were guilty of 16 turnovers, including nine in the first half, but dominated the paint, outrebounding the Lions, 41-23, and scoring 52 points in the paint to PSU Altoona's four. Navy's bench produced 61 of the 88 points.
Navy also had 21 assists on its 35 made field goals and boasted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for the second straight game (21 assists, 16 turnovers).
"I thought we passed the ball better as the game went on. We are really sharing the ball well right now, and I think we are shooting the ball well taking good shots. We have been very, very unselfish so far and we are excited about that," said DeChellis.
Navy limited Penn State Altoona to 19-of-50 (.380) from the field and forced 22 turnovers. The Lions shot just 6-of-21 (.286) in the first half and made zero shots inside the three-point line in the opening 20 minutes, going 0-of-6 inside the arc in the opening stanza. However, in the second half, Penn State Altoona went 13-of-29 (.448) from the field.
"We need to be a great team defensively and I thought we didn't do a very good job in the second half. They got some balls to the basket and we didn't step up the way we wanted to," said DeChellis. "There were some good defensive plays and some that we need to make. It's a whole new system for a lot of these guys. I didn't think we were bad, but we can really improve and get better on the defensive end."
Avila, a 6-7 sophomore from McAllen, Texas, led Navy with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting with five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in just 17 minutes of action. Wynn added a career-high 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting with three steals in just nine minutes. Senior Carlton Smith (Rochester, N.Y.) had his best game of his career with 10 points, six rebounds and a block in 15 minutes. Venturini also added 10 points with three rebounds and two steals in just 14 minutes.
No Navy player saw more than 18 minutes of action and 14 of the 16 players dressed scored points
Sarra led Penn State Altoona with 18 points.
Navy will hit the road on Wednesday to face Siena in Albany, N.Y., beginning at 7:00 pm. The game will be televised by Time-Warner Sports (New York) and online on ESPN3.com(.)