Freshman boosts Mids with solid floor game

It has taken Tilman Dunbar only a month to establish that he is the piston that drives the Navy offense. So when he picked up his fourth foul Monday night with seven minutes left in a game that Navy trailed, there was consternation on the bench of the Midshipmen.

But even in foul trouble, there is no hesitation in the jitterbugging, stop-and-go style of the 5-foot-10 freshman, who handled the fullcourt pressure of Bryant without a hitch and fueled the Navy offense in the critical moments of a 69-59 victory at Alumni Hall.

"I just wanted to keep attacking, keep making plays," Dunbar said.

The cool work of Dunbar, who was named Patriot League rookie of the week earlier in the day, and the Mids' inspired defense, which held Bryant to one cosmetic field goal in the final 6:41, were key as Navy improved to 6-6.

Dunbar (13 points, 10 assists) had seven turnovers and missed a pair of one-and-one free throws in the final 70 seconds, but there was little complaint as he set the tone for a Navy offense that generated quality shots. Navy hit 55.8 percent overall and six of 11 (54.5 percent) from beyond the arc.

"He created for guys and gets guys shots," Navy coach Ed DeChellis said. "He just comes at you, so he puts pressure on the defense right away, and the defense sinks."

The result was a balanced attack, led by freshman Kendall Knorr (15 points), who made seven of eight free throws in the final 40 seconds; sophomore Brandon Venturini (10 points, four steals); and renewed junior James Loupos (11 points, four rebounds).

The 6-6 Loupos, a starter much of last season, was a forgotten man early this year, but when sophomore center Jared Smoot was sidelined with an illness, Loupos got his chance and has thrived. After hitting 39.7 percent of his shots last year, Loupos has made 17 of his last 29 tries (58.6 percent), including a key 15-footer down the stretch against Bryant (5-4).

"Just confidence," Loupos said. "Offseason they told me, 'Work on your jump shot. That's something we're really gonna need out of you.' I took that to heart."