The Naval Academy ran up a predictably one-sided victory over East Carolina today in the opening round of the ECAC South basketball tournament, a laugher made even funnier by East Carolina's refusal to see it that way.
The dominance of the Pirates was almost complete in a 94-73 victory at William & Mary Hall that was Navy's first step toward an NCAA berth. It was marred only by East Carolina's rallying from a 16-point deficit to come as close as three before fading early in the second half.
Still a more riotous story was that of American University, which was eliminated by second-seeded Richmond, 74-68, but not without threatening the upset of the tournament.
Then there was George Mason, another scare victim before finally beating UNC-Wilmington. Host William & Mary was the only one to play the game it was supposed to, beating James Madison, 68-61.
In Friday's semifinals, Navy will meet William & Mary at 5:30 p.m., followed by George Mason against Richmond at 8 p.m.
Top-seeded Navy (23-5) set a handful of records and got some marvelous play from sophomore center David Robinson, the conference player of the year, who had 33 points and was 12-12 from the floor.
It was his eighth game with more than 30 this season, an Academy record, and his shooting percentage from the floor was a tournament record. In addition, guard Doug Wojcik had 14 assists, giving him 202 this season, a Navy record, and a single-game record in this event.
East Carolina Coach Charlie Harrison, whose way with words cost him dearly early in the second half, shook his head over Robinson.
"One of my assistants leaned over to me and said, 'Robinson's killing us.' I said, 'What do you want me to do, get a gun and shoot him?' "
Harrison had yelled audible obscenities, and his third remark at 17:23 cost two foul shots, which Kylor Whitaker made. Robinson was fouled on the inbounds play after the technical, and made two more from the line for a 50-42 lead.
Keith Sledge's fast-break lay-in narrowed it to 50-44, but Navy made back-to-back three-point plays, by Vernon Butler and Robinson for a 55-44 lead that sealed it.
East Carolina finished 7-22.
"We had a concentration lapse in the first half," said Navy's Paul Evans, who was voted the conference coach of the year this week.
American's record going into the tournament was as bad as Richmond's was good. The Eagles finished 9-19; the Spiders are 19-9.
But the Eagles, who start three freshmen, trailed only 30-24 at the half and, once the second half started, made nine straight field goals and 16 of 19 at one point. They didn't miss in the second half until 12 minutes remained and finished shooting 59 percent.
American tied it at 34, then center Eric White gave them their first lead at 13:15 with one of his eight field goals for the day, and he opened the lead to 48-44 at 10:25.
He scored again to preserve a three-point lead, 56-53. Peter Woolfolk made his only contribution for Richmond two minutes later, and it was important. He turned his only basket into a three-point play.
Greg Beckwith's 20-footer gave Richmond the lead, 62-60 at 3:51, then Kelvin Johnson extended the lead to four with 2:55 remaining.
Frank Ross led AU with 20 points and White had 16.
Mason's victory was its first in four tries in the ECAC postseason event, and it wasn't pretty. The Patriots, seeded third, are 18-10 overall; Wilmington finished 12-16.
Wilmington led, 27-20, at the half but Mason tied it at 29 two minutes into the second half. Carlos Yates finished with 18 points, but Rob Rose opened it up for the Patriots. He had no points in the first half, but scored 12 straight in Mason's 16-4 run and finished with 14. That run brought them back from a deficit to a 56-45 lead at 8:30.
"We played awful," Coach Joe Harrington said. "We were fortunate to win. I feel we'll play much better tomorrow."