Last year, Navy needed two overtimes to squeeze out a three-point triumph over a determined Lafayette squad.
Tonight, all Navy needed was a couple of David Robinson blocks, a few inside baskets by Vernon Butler and a little zone defense to render the outmanned Leopards helpless early before earning a 71-56 victory before 3,131 at Halsey Field House.
Despite the somewhat easy victory, Navy Coach Paul Evans felt his team did just enough to win its 10th consecutive home game and 46th in its last 49 contests here.
"We were there, that's all," Evans said. "No one was intense out there. Maybe it was because we've played four straight tough games. But I guess if you have to have a bad game, this was it. They played not to get killed and sometimes that style of play gets you out of your routine."
Lafayette (5-8), with its two tallest starters only 6 feet 6, couldn't do anything inside against the shot-blocking 6-11 Robinson and aggressive 6-7 Butler. The Leopards usually were content to use most of the 45-second clock before heisting up a shot from the 22-foot range. In the early going, most of the shots missed by wide margins, enabling Navy (12-3) to build a lead.
Butler (21 points, four rebounds) had eight quick points, Doug Wojcik had three baskets, Kylor Whitaker hit a long jumper (becoming the 11th Navy player to surpass the 1,000-point plateau) and Robinson had three blocks and four rebounds as the Midshipmen took a 21-6 lead with 10:38 to play in the first half.
"I thought we played well in the first half defensively," said Robinson, who finished with 20 points (tying a team record by scoring double figures in 47 straight games), 13 rebounds and six blocks. "The second half, we didn't execute at all. We were a bit confused out there. It's good to have a bad game, without losing, to get your head back."
Navy shot 65 percent from the floor (compared to Lafayette's 42 percent) and outrebounded the Leopards, 17-7, in the first half to take a commanding 39-22 lead at intermission.
"We were trying to win. We wanted to be patient, get good shots," said Lafayette Coach Butch van Breda Kolff, who returned to the East Coast Conference school after 10 years in the NBA. "Playing here against Robinson is just like in the NBA: the good players get the breaks. If we take the ball to him, it's a block. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. Robinson is a very good player.
"We did what we wanted to -- worked our offense, worked hard on defense. Oh, we could have run with them and got beat by a ridiculous score. What would that prove? We were just hoping to work on some things that will benefit us in our league play."
Van Breda Kolff saw his club shoot much better in the second half. Billy Hughes had three long jumpers and Gary Bennett (19 points) and Kevin Davis had two baskets each as Lafayette made seven of its first eight shots to cut Navy's lead to nine points, 45-36, with 15 minutes to play.
For the next five minutes, the teams exchanged baskets until the Midshipmen got serious and pulled away. Both Robinson and Butler got inside for two easy baskets and reserve guard Neal Fenton made two jumpers as the lead swelled back to 15 points, 60-45.
Robinson then scored eight straight points to assure the victory. Catholic 73, Delaware Valley 64
John Winkler had 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as visiting Catholic won its sixth straight.
Bob Burns scored 16 points and also had 12 rebounds for the Cardinals (7-6), who outrebounded the host team, 46-24.