ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Northern Kentucky University’s Ernest “Stretch” Watson felt right at home Saturday afternoon when his team visited Navy.
Playing before a cheering section of family and friends, the Washington, D.C., native poured in a career-high 19 points as NKU posted a 55-46 victory over Navy in Alumni Hall. Watson’s heroics included his own personal 11-0 run in the second half – a jumper and three three consecutive 3-pointers – that turned a 38-37 Navy lead into a 48-38 NKU advantage with 4:57 left in the game.
“Stretch had absolutely one of the most amazing, clutch performances you will ever see on the road,” NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “It wasn’t just how many points, but when he did it. He took over a game when we were behind on the road, and that’s what you like seeing a senior do.”
Watson, whose previous career high was 18 points, also grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots. As family and friends spelled out “STRETCH” behind the NKU bench, Watson rewarded their enthusiasm with a memorable performance.
NKU and won its second road game in less than 72 hours and improved to 2-6. Navy, which has already doubled its win total from last season, dropped to 6-7. The Midshipmen also owned a three-game home winning streak going into Saturday.
NKU sophomore Jalen Billups was again a force inside with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Billups, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds Thursday night to key NKU’s 54-52 win at Hampton (Va.), was 7-for-7 from the field against Navy.
“Jalen was huge in the paint, and he really set the tone early in the second half by finishing inside,” Bezold said. “Navy built the early lead, but our guys kept their composure, which is a must when you play on the road.”
The Norse rallied from a 19-10 deficit with a 13-4 run to tie the game at halftime, 23-all. Ethan Faulkner and Eshaunte Jones both knocked down 3-pointers to ignite the NKU spurt. Watson scored eight points in the first half, but hisbest was yet to come.
Billups scored three consecutive baskets to begin the second half as NKU built a 29-24 lead. Navy, however, used an 11-6 run to even the score at 35-all.
That’s when Watson took over. His jumper gave NKU the lead for good at 39-38. The 6-foot-7 senior then buried 3-pointers on the Norse’s next three trips down the court, and Navy was down by 10 points (48-38) with less than five minutes to play.
The Norse shot 50 percent from the field and held Navy to 37.3 percent shooting. NKU also dominated the boards, finishing with a 35-20 advantage in rebounds to defeat Navy in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Jones added 13 points and a career-high seven assists for NKU, which begins Atlantic Sun Conference play Dec. 31 at Jacksonville. Chad Jackson grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists for the Norse.
Tilman Dunbar led Navy with 12 points, and Brandon Venturin added 11 points for the Midshipmen