Navy rebounded from five sluggish minutes and an early eight-point deficit tonight as sophomore center David Robinson scored 29 points to give American University a rude welcome to the ECAC South, 84-68, at Halsey Field House.
The Midshipmen improved to 3-0 with their victory in the league opener. At home, they have won 11 straight and 31 of their last 33 games.
The Eagles (1-2) have lost to Navy four straight times.
Robinson, at 6 feet 11 Navy's tallest player ever, made nine of 16 field goal attempts and had 11 rebounds. Most of his shots came from around the lane as he gave the Midshipmen a dimension they have never before enjoyed -- inside domination.
"I'm starting to get more confident," said Robinson, who is from Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Va. "At the beginning of the game, we want to establish control of the middle."
American came into the game with a 22-37 record against ECAC South teams. The Eagles, in their ECAC debut after leaving the East Coast Conference, gained a 10-2 lead as they forced six turnovers in the first five minutes.
Doug Wojcik's ballhandling and reserve Cliff Rees' scoring settled down Navy. In a 7 1/2-minute stretch late in the first half, Navy outscored American, 24-6, turning an 18-15 deficit into a 39-24 lead. Robinson had 11 of those points.
Rees, who finished with 14 points, made all six of his first-half shots as Navy shot 71 percent (17 of 24).
"I don't know what happened early," said Navy Coach Paul Evans. "We just stunk for the first five minutes. But Wojcik handled their pressure well, and Robinson showed he is getting more confident, especially on defense. We really haven't seen what he can do yet. He had 29 points tonight, and we've been waiting for years here for two players to score a total of 29 points in a game."
American Coach Ed Tapscott, whose team played one good half before losing to George Washington, 83-59, Saturday, said he knows the problem but isn't certain of its cause or its solution.
"In the beginning, we caused open jump shots," said Tapscott, "but then we did like we did against GW -- we hit that wall. Our coaching staff calls it 'The Big Lull.' If it happens late, you might call it conditioning, but it happened early today, so it can't be that."
Frank Ross led the Eagles with 24 points, 18 in the second half. As has been the case in his two years at AU, he received little offensive help. He was the only Eagle to score in the first 7 1/2 minutes after intermission as he had 10 points while the Eagles fell behind, 56-38.
Navy opened a 23-point lead, 71-48, after 6-7 Vernon Butler scored with 6:14 remaining.
"Big teams are going to give us trouble," said Tapscott. "No doubt about it. It's just difficult to ask a 6-5 kid to guard a 6-11 kid all night long."