Fernandez proves plus for Navy, 66-53

Little-used point guard gets the energy flowing as Mids beat Bucknell

January 19, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

For nearly three weeks, Navy's basketball team has been drifting rudderless across the ocean of college basketball.

But after putting a scrappy but seldom-used point guard at the helm, the Midshipmen may finally be headed in the right direction.

Jason Fernandez - whose biggest responsibility before yesterday was running Navy's scout team - got his first career start against Bucknell, and the 6-foot junior's steady play was arguably the difference in the Mids' 66-53 victory at Alumni Hall.

The win, which was keyed by a 19-5 run to open the second half, ended a four-game losing streak by Navy (5-11 overall, 1-2 Patriot League) and was just its third win in its past 13 games.

"Jason Fernandez really gave us a lot of energy today," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "One of my seniors spoke to me this week and really lobbied for Jason, and so I elected to go with him, even though he'd played very few minutes and didn't even get in some games.

"He's very vocal out there, and we needed that. Jason may be what we need to run our attack."

Fernandez wasn't brilliant statistically against the Bison (7-8, 1-2), scoring only 10 points, but he directed traffic and did some of the little things Navy has been missing lately.

While seniors Scott Long (19 points, eight rebounds), Francis Ebong (11 points, seven rebounds) and Mitch Moore (nine points, five rebounds) controlled the paint, Fernandez and senior Jason Jeanpierre gave the Mids a much-needed lift from the outside against Bucknell's constant double-teams.

Fernandez helped force the Bison into 11 first-half turnovers and, right before intermission, hit a three-pointer to give Navy a 28-23 lead going into the locker room.

"Our big guys were really coming through and so it led to some easy buckets from outside," said Fernandez, who didn't find out he was going to start until an hour before the game. "The best thing we did today was take care of the ball."

Bucknell couldn't take care of it, and couldn't get a call to go its way, either. After the Bison's 6-foot-11 center, Davorin Skornik, got in early foul trouble, Navy pounded the ball inside, which led to a 37-12 advantage in free-throw attempts.

"Normally, you might look at 37 free throws to our 12 and be upset, but I just don't think we adjusted," said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery. "Navy plays aggressive and you have to be ready for it. You have to get in front of them and cut off their drives, and we didn't. ... They were the better team and deserved to win today."

BUCKNELL-Rodgers 4-12 3-4 12, Lalugba 5-10 1-2 11, Skornik 0-0 0-0 0, Blankenship 4-6 1-2 11, Bettencourt 3-12 0-0 8, Slater 2-3 0-0 4, Webber 0-1 0-0 0, Namvou 1-2 0-0 2, Quinn 0-3 2-2 2, Viaer-McClymont 0-0 1-2 1, Bennett 0-1 0-0 0, Niesz 0-0 0-0 0, Hardenbergh 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-51 8-12 53. NAVY-Ebong 3-6 5-13 11, Long 3-5 11-13 19, Moore 4-6 1-1 9, Fernandez 3-6 2-2 10, Jeanpierre 2-11 5-6 11, Hooper 1-4 0-0 3, Ofori 0-1 0-0 0, O'Garro 0-1 0-0 0, Fannin 1-1 0-0 2, Mergerson 0-1 0-0 0, Mathews 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 17-42 25-37 66. Halftime-Navy 28-23. 3-point goals-Bucknell 5-17 (Blankenship 2-2, Bettencourt 2-8, Rodgers 1-4, Bennett 0-1, Namvou 0-1, Quinn 0-1), Navy 7-19 (Long 2-2, Fernandez 2-5, Jeanpierre 2-8, Hooper 1-2, Ofori 0-1, O'Garro 0-1). Fouled out-Lalugba, Moore. Rebounds-Bucknell 29 (Lalugba 9), Navy 36 (Long 8). Assists-Bucknell 10 (Rodgers 4), Navy 15 (Ebong 3, Long 3). Total fouls-Bucknell 29, Navy 18. A-2,437.

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