Vernon Butler has been very sick of late.
"He didn't play sick," said East Carolina Coach Charlie Harrison, whose team fell to Navy, 71-56, tonight as Butler scored 26 points in front of 2,565 at Halsey Field House.
Butler's 22 points in the second half helped the Midshipmen take control after they led by only 29-28 at halftime.
The victory leaves Coach Paul Evans' Midshipmen 17-4 overall and 8-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. East Carolina fell to 10-10 and 5-3.
Kylor Whitaker had 16 points for Navy and junior center David Robinson had 11 to extend to 54 his streak of games in which he has scored in double figures.
Marchell Henry scored 17 points to lead East Carolina, which lost by five to Navy when the teams met Jan. 6 in Greenville, N.C.
Butler, a 6-foot-7 senior from Beltsville, has been fighting a stomach ailment for nearly two weeks and is about 15 pounds below his normal playing weight of 230. But he finally seems to be winning the battle. Although he had to pull himself out of Sunday's practice because he felt weak and a bit dizzy, he is optimistic the worst is over after tonight's performance.
"The first half was a little sluggish," he said. "But once I started sweating and the adrenalin started flowing, things started to click."
Navy outscored East Carolina, 18-6, over the first 9:41 of the second half, with Butler getting 10 in that stretch. That gave the Midshipmen a 47-34 lead and put them squarely in control.
Nevertheless, aside from praise for Butler and a few other aspects, Evans wasn't high on the performance.
"This will be short," he said upon entering the press room. "My mother told me that if I didn't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything." He went on to say he wasn't thrilled with the idea that his taller and stronger team was outrebounded in the first half, even if it did come back to finish the game with a 37-36 edge.
East Carolina bottled up Robinson in its 2-3 zone, which helped Butler. Robinson was limited to seven field goal attempts. He also had 10 rebounds.
"They just forgot about me inside," Butler said. "But after the way David played in the first game (23 points, 12 rebounds, 12 blocked shots), I don't blame them."