Free throws, rebounds help Wave sink Navy, 51-41

NEW ORLEANS — It wasn’t pretty — at times it was downright ugly — but the Tulane men’s basketball team secured a 51-41 home victory over Navy on Saturday afternoon at Devlin Fieldhouse.

The Green Wave took advantage of Midshipmen foul trouble in the second half, going 17-for-24 from the line during the half, and used a dominating performance on the boards to clinch the win and improve to 6-2 overall. Navy slipped to 4-5.

“It didn’t feel like it was as close as it was,” said Tulane senior guard Ben Cherry, whose eight points and two three-pointers buoyed a struggling first-half offense. “Sometimes you just have one of those nights, but that’s the way the ball rolls and things get tough. But good players have to fight through that.”

While Tulane pulled off the triumph, it was painful to watch at times. The Wave shot only 27.7 percent from the floor. Tulane also committed 15 turnovers, including eight steals by Navy, which employed a zone defense that at times crippled the Tulane attack.

“That’s a good defensive team,” said Tulane junior forward Josh Davis, who led the Wave with 17 points and 10 rebounds. “We just tried to stay focused, and at the end of the day we came out with the win.”

Tulane coach Ed Conroy said, “We certainly won’t get any style points today.”

But thanks to the aggressive inside play of Davis, who hauled down nine rebounds in the second half, including six on offense, the Wave was able to pull away from the Midshipmen down the stretch, even though Navy went 52.2 percent from the floor in the second half to finish at 36.2 percent for the game.

Davis, who committed two quick, early fouls and spent most of the first half on the bench, overcame those troubles in the second half.

“That was some great mental toughness shown by him,” Conroy said of Davis.

Tulane senior guard Jordan Callahan helped up with 10 points, while senior forward Kendall Timmons contributed seven rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Worth Smith and Brandon Venturini paced the Midshipmen with 11 points each.

The first half of Saturday’s game was especially unpleasant, with Tulane shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and Navy shooting 20.8 percent.

The Green Wave’s scoring potential was crippled early in the half when Davis picked up two quick fouls and spent most of the half on the bench after going 3-for-3 from the field in the first few minutes.

Tulane committed nine turnovers for the half while allowing Navy to steal the ball six times.

However, the Wave managed to go into halftime with a 23-13 edge, thanks largely to a dominating performance on the boards. Tulane outrebounded the Midshipmen 23-13 — quirkily the same count as the halftime score — including seven offensive rebounds.

In the second half, Navy pulled within five with 11:37 left in the contest but got no closer. Tulane gradually extended its lead and held a 48-35 advantage with 4:46 to go. After Davis converted two free throws with a little more than two minutes left, the Wave led 51-37 edge and had effectively sealed the victory.

Conroy said second-half rebounding and free-throw shooting by his squad proved key. He said that while such efforts will be needed as the season progresses, the Wave offense needs to start clicking if the squad hopes to have sustained success.

“We’re doing the things we need to do in the long run,” he said. “And no doubt the offense will get going soon.”