Courtesy of NavySports.com
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Junior guard Brandon Venturini scored a career-high 28 points and made 8-of-9 three pointers to lift Navy (6-7, 1-1 PL) to a 79-71 conference win over Lafayette (4-9, 0-2 PL) in Alumni Hall on Sunday. With the win, Navy improves to 5-0 at home this season.
“This was a big game for us,” head coach Ed DeChellis said. “We lose the other night, we have to go to Boston U. on Tuesday with a one day prep tomorrow and then we have Army on Saturday. This was an important game for us. The kids knew it. I thought they played a little tight in the first half. I thought the first half we were really sleepwalking and we didn’t play with the level of intensity that we needed to have.
“In the second half I thought we played better. Obviously when you make some shots like Venturini did it opens things up a little bit for you. I’m very happy with our kids the second half. They had good effort and they responded.”
Venturini was 6-of-6 on three pointers in the second half and helped Navy shoot 11-of-14 from beyond the arc in the contest. Navy’s .786 three-point shooting percentage is the second-best single-game mark in school history.
Venturini’s eight threes were one shy of the Navy school record. He eclipsed his previous career highs of 23 points and seven three pointers, which both came against Lafayette on Jan. 12, 2013.
“My teammates got me open,” said Venturini. “There were four or five times when I just came off a screen. The big guys were setting good screens and the guards were getting the ball there. They set up the shots so credit to them.”
Navy used a late 14-5 run that was ignited by two Venturini treys to pull away from Lafayette. Navy was leading 62-61 when Venturini hit a three. Alan Flannigan answered with a three on the following possession but then Venturini struck again from outside the arc the next time down.
Lafayette’s Bryce Scott scored on a layup to pull within two at 68-66 but then senior Thurgood Wynn made a driving layup. Nine seconds later junior point guard Earl McLaurin made a steal and then was fouled. McLaurin hit both free throws and after a missed three pointer by Lafayette went out of bounds, Wynn threw a long home-run pass to junior Worth Smith who get free for a two-handed slam and an eight-point lead. Navy made enough free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 79-71 win.
Navy scored on its first two possessions of the first half when sophomore Kendall Knorr hit a three pointer and then Smith made a driving layup for a 5-0 lead. Navy was then held scoreless for the next 5:13 as Lafayette went on an 8-0 run before a bucket by sophomore Will Kelly broke the drought.
Venturini’s shooting kept Navy in the game in the first half, hitting three pointers twice when Navy was trailing byt three to pull the Mids even. Venturini also had a steal and a fast-break layup to give Navy a 21-20 lead.
After the Leopards went up five at 29-24, Wynn hit two free throws and then jumped in the passing lane for a steal and a fast break layup. Lafayette took a 33-29 lead into halftime and this was the first time all season that Navy won a contest that it trailed at the break.
Lafayette scored first in the second half to take a six-point lead at 35-29, but Navy responded with a 10-0 run that eventually grew to a 17-4 burst. The run began when McLaurin’s three pointer bounced around the rim before finally falling in. Smith hit a spot-up jumper, Venturni drained a three and then Smith hit another jumper for the 10-0 run that spanned just over three minutes.
After Lafayette cut the lead to two, Smith converted an and-one play, Wynn made a free throw and then Venturini’s three pointer put Navy up 46-39. The teams went back-and-forth over the next several minutes with Venturini sinking two more three pointers and freshman Michael Brown having a big put-back layup which eventually led to Navy’s crucial late run that sealed its first Patriot League win of the season.
Wynn finished with 15 points and was 9-of-12 from the free throw line. Smith had 14 points and six rebounds and McLaurin had eight points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Navy’s .786 three-point field goal percentage is second to only the 1986-87 team’s 1.000 percentage (4-of-4) at Richmond on Feb. 24, 1987 as the best single-game three-point shooting performance in school history.
Scott led Lafayette with 20 points and he was 9-of-12 from the free throw line. Dan Trist had 14 points and nine rebounds and Flannigan also finished with 14 points.
Lafayette was 25-of-35 from the free throw line in the game.
The win snapped Navy’s four-game losing streak.
Navy will next play at Boston University (9-6, 2-0) on Tuesday at 7:00 PM.