After watching Navy center David Robinson score 35 points, get 15 rebounds and block six shots against his American University team last night, Coach Ed Tapscott was asked what his Lilliputian-sized Eagles could have done differently.
"Shoot him," he replied. "But that's illegal."
After Navy's 81-61 ECAC South victory at Fort Myer, in which big men Robinson and Vernon Butler scored 42 of Navy's first 54 points while the outcome was in doubt, the only thing shot down were rumors that Robinson, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, was going to transfer to Maryland or Virginia next season.
"There's no basis to them (the rumors) whatsoever," Robinson said. "I haven't even thought about what I'm going to do if I transfer. But I don't think I'm going to transfer. I like the Naval Academy."
This is particularly discouraging news to Tapscott and other ECAC South coaches. After a short, deft turnaround jumper by Robinson ended an 11-0 run and gave the Midshipmen a 54-41 lead with 11:07 to play, Tapscott turned to assistant coach Fran Dunphy and said, "It's an example of how you get crushed by a big man."
Robinson had 31 points at the time. In a 37-31 first half, Robinson (22) and Butler (11) had all but four of Navy's points. The Midshipmen led early by 11, and Navy Coach Paul Evans thought his players may have become bored because they were able to get the ball inside to Robinson or Butler almost at will.
AU remained in contention, however, through the first six minutes of the second half, since point guard Mike Sampson, one of the Eagles' three freshmen starters, was able to penetrate the lane and pass off for easy baskets.
Then Navy adjusted its defense slightly, stationing reserve forward Tony Wells in the middle of a 2-3 zone. By sagging back, Navy eliminated Sampson's ability to penetrate and pass off. By the time the somewhat fatigued Eagles adjusted, they had two turnovers, a blocked shot and two misses, and Navy had a 54-41 lead.
The victory left Navy in first place in the ECAC South with a 9-2 record, 18-4 overall. AU is 2-9, 7-16.
Not only was Robinson dominating on offense (he and Butler were a combined 18 for 28 as Navy shot 58.3 percent for the game). The Eagles clearly were intimidated on offense, as indicated by their 37.1 percent shooting.
Early on, AU would get the ball inside, only to ignore short shots and pass back out for the kind of medium-range jump shots by which reserve forward Pat Witting scored a career-high 17 points.
Tapscott said at one point he told one of his young players, "Robinson won't bite you."
Afterward, Tapscott compared Robinson favorably with Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and George Washington's Mike Brown, two of the country's best centers.
"I think he's on the same plateau," Tapscott said. "I'd like to see him play against people like that, and I'd pay to see it."