Navy freshman Derric Turner played in not one, but two basketball games this afternoon. After playing in a plebe game to boost his confidence, he helped lift the Midshipmen to a 74-53 victory over American in a Colonial Athletic Association game before 4,135 at Halsey Field House.
The victory and Richmond's 73-58 loss to George Mason tonight, tied Navy with the Spiders for the CAA lead.
For both teams, today's game was the continuation of a trend: Navy (21-4 overall, 11-1 in the CAA) won its seventh straight; American (8-15, 2-10) lost its 10th in 11 games.
For Turner, it was a dramatic turn in his freshman season. The 6-foot-6 forward from Burke started the first six games of the season but played himself into a reserve and hadn't scored in the last seven games.
Today, he scored 11 points and had 11 rebounds. With Navy forward Vernon Butler's playing time reduced to 12 minutes because of a virus and a sprained left knee, Turner had more than his usual bit part.
As a starter he played a supporting role to David Robinson, who finished with a team-high 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Navy Coach Paul Evans had told Turner after Thursday's practice that he would play in the plebe game against Fork Union.
"To be honest," Turner said, "I knew I needed to start somewhere. I wasn't really happy about the decision , but I wasn't really upset.
"What happens if I go into the plebe game and have no points and no rebounds," Turner admitted thinking before the first game of his doubleheader. "Actually I played pretty poorly in the plebe game."
Against Fork Union, Turner scored seven points before fouling out with about 10 minutes to play and his team trailing by one. Navy lost, 67-61.
In the afternoon game, Turner's support was surely key to the victory in which Navy never trailed and American got an unexpected performance from 6-6 center Longmire Harrison, who finished with a career-high 15 points (seven for 11 from the field) and seven rebounds.
American's Frank Ross, the CAA's leading scorer (22.4 ppg), finished with a game-high 17. Ross' offensive production was limited by American's attempt to dictate a halfcourt game.
"We didn't think they'd slow it down," Evans said.
Navy, which beat American, 97-68, in their first meeting this season, led at the half, 30-20.
Kylor Whitaker (12 points) and Carl Liebert (nine points) then combined for all the Midshipmen's points in a 15-4 run at the start of the second half.
"We said at the half, it would be nice if one of our two guards could score," Evans said.
Ross ended that spurt when he hit a jumper, making it 45-26 with 14:08 left.
But on the next possession, when Turner, who shoots right-handed, pulled in a pass from Liebert and dunked with his left hand to make it 47-26, it appeared Navy was relentless.
American scored. Then the next time down court, Turner converted an offensive rebound and completed a three-point play to put the Midshipmen ahead, 50-28, with 12:45 to play.
"Navy's a better team than us," American Coach Ed Tapscott said. "We need a David Robinson or a Vernon Butler or a Derric Turner."