Call it a clinic. Call it a blowout. Call it textbook basketball. Or call it what Tulsa Coach J.D. Barnett called it: "A humiliation."
They all fit tonight for Navy. The Midshipmen came into the Carrier Dome and played basketball about as well as it can be played. The result was an 87-68 annihilation of Tulsa in the opening round of the NCAA East regional.
The victory, which puts the Midshipmen (28-4) into Sunday's second round against Syracuse (26-5), was largely an Evans-Robinson-Butler production.
It was Coach Paul Evans who noticed while watching film that Tulsa (23-9) had liked to play behind its opponents in the low post.
It was 6-foot-11 junior David Robinson, all grace and elegance, who had 30 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and who caught the ball easily in the low post all night before turning and shooting over the befuddled Tulsa big men.
And it was 6-7 senior Vernon Butler who used his bulk and power to consistently score inside. He had 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Syracuse advanced with a 101-52 drubbing of Brown (16-11). Dwayne (Pearl) Washington scored 21 points and keyed a 21-0 first-half run.
The Bruins led on three occasions in the opening minutes, the last time at 15:21 on Mike Waitkus' jumper for a 9-8 advantage. Brown stayed close through the first 10 minutes, drawing within 20-19 on Patrick Lynch's two free throws with 10:10 left.
Washington then led a 27-2 run that put the game out of reach. The 6-2 guard sandwiched a foul-line jumper and a driving layup around a Wendell Alexis dunk for a 26-19 lead. After Lynch hit a jumper from the corner, Syracuse scored 21 straight points. Washington set up several baskets with flashy passes.
In the Navy victory, Robinson and Butler had ample help. Kylor Whitaker scored 15 points and had 11 assists, many of them on feeds into the post. Doug Wojcik had eight assists and only two turnovers against the Tulsa pressure. And Carl Liebert hit all three shots he took and scored nine points.
"They're an excellent basketball team," said Barnett, who complained rather futilely about the officiating. "We never had a chance to play because we were in so much foul trouble. But what happened in the second half was a humiliation, and we haven't been humiliated all year."
Tulsa only trailed by 41-38 at the half because it shot 58 percent from the field, scoring consistently from the perimeter against Navy's zone. But Evans thought the Golden Hurricane wasrunning out of steam and told his team during the break to push the ball up the floor every chance it got.
That is just what Navy did. The Midshipmen scored the first seven points of the half. As the half wore on, the plays just kept getting prettier and prettier.
Butler ripped a rebound, spun and threw the ball 70 feet to the breaking Butler for a layup. That made the margin 16. Moments later, Robinson blocked a driving shot by Tracy Moore (16 points) and caught the ball in the air. He turned and whipped the ball to Whitaker, who turned and tossed a perfect lob to a breakaway Butler, who laid the ball in for a 68-50 lead.
Just a short while later, with Tulsa pressing, Wojcik slipped two men, spotted Robinson cutting and threw up a lob. Robinson made a tremendous leap, caught the ball and jammed to make it 74-54.
That was the final exclamation point, if one was needed.
The final numbers said it all: Navy shot 64 percent for the game and held Tulsa to 39 percent in the second half. The Midshipmen took 17 less shots but made just as many baskets. The difference in field goal attempts resulted from Tulsa's fouling (26 personals), which put Navy on the line all night.
"We know we have to come out and play with a lot of emotion in every game," said Robinson. "In the second half when Vernon and I really got on the boards and we got our break going, we really picked it up emotionally. That's the way we need to play."
This was the second straight season that Navy routed an opening-round opponent. It was satisfying a year ago when Louisiana State was hammered, 78-55. It was satisfying tonight because Evans and his players felt they deserved more respect than the No. 7 seed they were given.
"I told the kids on Tuesday that they could get ticked off about the draw and lose in the first round or really go and play and just forget about it," Evans said. "I think our kids are smart enough to just play the game and let the other stuff take care of itself."
Nonetheless, when Notre Dame Athletic Director Gene Corrigan came up to congratulate him, Evans couldn't resist cracking, "What happened to Virginia with that No. 5 seed?"
But Navy's best talking tonight was done on the floor. All evening, Robinson and Butler were able to get the ball in the post, Evans having ordered Wojcik, Liebert and Whitaker to look there on every possession. When the Golden Hurricane came out cold in the second half, Navy's consistent inside play wore them down.
Barnett's complaint about the officiating -- Navy shot 36 free throws to Tulsa's five -- was simply a product of style, Evans said. "If you get the ball inside all night and the other team doesn't, you're going to shoot a lot more fouls than the other team," Evans said. "The fouls that were called, were fouls. They were all over us."
Butler said Navy had expected Tulsa to adjust its defense after a while, but the adjustment never came. "I guess it was because of the foul trouble," he said. "But we never had to start kicking it back outside. The inside was there all night."
"It really wasn't all that easy," Whitaker said rather lamely. "Except maybe for the last four or five minutes."
By then, Robinson was sitting comfortably on the bench and Evans was contemplating a second-round game against Syracuse in front of 30,000 Syracuse fans.
"Another NCAA neutral court," he said with a smile.
Tonight, Navy took care of the NCAA's low seeding. If it can play this well again Sunday, it might take care of that neutral-court problem, too. Not likely, but not impossible, either.