My second game of the weekend took me to Annapolis, Maryland, home of the United States Naval Academy. The Midshipmen were playing their home opener against the Lions of Penn State Altoona, a Division III school of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. It was the first home game for new Navy coach Ed DeChellis, who took the job at Navy after previously coaching at Penn State.
As I made the drive to Annapolis on the Washington Beltway, I couldn't help but think about the differences between coaching a program like Penn State compared to one like Navy. Penn State plays in the Big Ten, where finishing in the middle of the pack can still lead to a NCAA Tournament invitation. For Navy (and other mid-majors) the only way to get an NCAA Tournament bid (where it ends in a loss) is to win their conference tournament in March. If a team has a great regular season, but is upset in their conference tournament, their season is over, except for a few teams that receive invitations to the NIT, or another #ghostbracket tournament. A second difference is the type of athlete that DeChellis now has to recruit. Not only does he have to recruit good athletes, he has to recruit players who are able to meet the high standards of the Naval Academy, standards that several players do not meet. It is almost impossible for me to understand what these student-athletes go through every day, not only meeting their requirements to the basketball team, but as Midshipmen as well.
The game was a de-facto exhibition against the Lions, although it did count for the Midshipmen in the standings. (But the Lions did not list this game on their schedule). There was still a decent crowd, including a handful of Midshipmen. While Mids are required to attend all football games, the same is not true for basketball games. However, the ones that did attend made plenty of noise, as did the pep band. Navy was clearly the better team, despite having some sloppy moments. J.J, Avila opened the game by hitting back-to-back three-pointers to give the Mids a 6-0 lead. The Lions then split a pair of free-throws, cutting the lead to 6-1. That was as close as the game would be, as the Mids dominated the remainder of the first half, including a 13-0 run at one point, to take a 49-21 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Mids continued their dominance. Fueled by a 16-0 run, the lead reached as high as forty-one (81-40 before DeChellis emptied his bench. The Lions closed the game on a 12-7 run, making the final 88-54. Availa was the player of the game for the Midshipmen, not missing a shot from the field or the foul line, and finishing with 14 points. Three players, Thurgood Wynn, Carlton Smith, and Brandon Venturini each reached double-digits, scoring 10 points each. Of the 16 players that got into the game for the Mids, 14 scored. For the Lions, who never quit playing despite being outmatched, Eric Sarra had 18, while Jonathan Ross added 11.
After the game, the players stood at attention while the pep band played "Blue and Gold," followed by the traditional chant of "BEAT ARMY!" For the Midshipmen, getting a win is great, but beating Army is even better.
at NAVY 88, PENN STATE ALTOONA 54 11/13/2011
NAVY 2-0 (0-0) -- J. Sugars 3-8 0-0 7; J. Loupos 1-1 2-2 4; J. Avila 6-6 0-0 14; W. Smith 2-6 1-2 5; C. Smith 4-5 2-2 10; B. Venturini 3-5 2-2 10; J. Brickman 2-5 0-0 4; K. Alter 1-2 2-2 5; B. Wyatt 0-1 0-0 0; C. Montgomery 2-3 0-1 4; I. Roberts 1-2 0-0 2; D. Jackson 3-7 1-3 7; T. Wynn 5-5 0-1 10; T. Connolly 0-2 0-0 0; J. Smoot 2-2 0-0 4; J. Liebert 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 35-62 12-17 88.
Three-point goals: - , NAVY 6-18 (T. Connolly 0-1; J. Sugars 1-4; J. Avila 2-2; B. Wyatt 0-1; K. Alter 1-2; J. Brickman 0-1; C. Montgomery 0-1; W. Smith 0-1; D. Jackson 0-2; B. Venturini 2-3); Rebounds: , NAVY 37 (C. Smith 6); Assists: , NAVY 21 (J. Brickman 4); Total Fouls -- , NAVY 14; Fouled Out: -; NAVY-None.