Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 2/5/14
Ed DeChellis is a head coach in search of answers. Unfortunately, with each passing game, the Navy men’s basketball team presents more and more questions. Navy has lost 11 of its last 13 games and is off to a dismal 2-8 start in the Patriot League. DeChellis and his staff have tried all sorts of strategies to turn things around and are quickly running out of options. DeChellis, in his third year at the helm, sounded like a coach at wit’s end as he repeated several times during an interview this week, “I just don’t know what else to say.” Navy’s problems are myriad as the team ranks at or near the bottom of the Patriot League in a slew of key statistics, including scoring offense (60.6 points per game), scoring margin (minus-4.5), field-goal percentage (.388), free-throw percentage (.648), 3-point field goal percentage (.317) and assists (12.3 average). Much of the offensive woes can be blamed on the lack of a strong point guard. Returning starter Tilman Dunbar made his teammates better by creating and distributing the ball and Navy just hasn’t been the same since the sophomore was suspended for the remainder of the season on Dec. 30. Junior Earl McLaurin initially took over as the starter and performed adequately, but his production steadily declined and so did his minutes. Junior Brandon Venturini, a natural wing guard, is now starting at the point in order to provide a steadying presence and ensure the offense runs properly. However, having to bring the ball upcourt and initiate the attack takes away from Venturini’s ability to score. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” DeChellis admitted. “There are some positives from having Brandon run the point, but there are some drawbacks as well.” Junior forward Worth Smith leads Navy in scoring with 11.1 points per game while Venturini is close behind with a 10.7 average. However, the Mids have struggled to find a third scorer. No one else is producing more than 6.7 points. Junior Thurgood Wynn along with freshmen Zach Fong, Michael Brown and Grant Vermeer have all hit double figures during Patriot League play. None has managed to do so more twice. “You need at least three guys to reach double digits in order to get the 65 to 70 points you need to win in this league,” DeChellis said. “In the games we’ve won, we had people step out of their skin a little bit and make some baskets. We have two guys scoring the ball on a fairly consistent basis. We need to find a third scorer to help out Brandon and Worth.” Navy ranks second in the Patriot League in scoring defense, holding opponents to 65 points per game. However, the Midshipmen have suffered defensive letdowns at critical times, not playing as well on that end in the second half as they do in the first. Opponents have scored too many points the easy way, making 325 free throws. “We’re fouling way too much. Teams have made almost as many free throws as we’ve taken,” DeChellis bemoaned. “We don’t have the greatest overall foot speed, so that’s an issue. Sometimes we’re in proper position and reach out and grab guys. We need to play smarter on defense. We need to communicate and pay attention to detail.”
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