The Navy basketball team has struggled most of the season to replace graduated all-America center David Robinson. It could have fooled American University's team last night into thinking he still is a Midshipman.
Eddie Reddick, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward, had 14 points and nine rebounds and 6-9 sophomore forward Byron Hopkins blocked six shots and scored 10 points as Navy won its second straight Colonial Athletic Association game, 75-60, before 3,700 at Bender Arena.
The powerful inside game is something relatively new this season for Navy (5-12 overall, 2-5 in the conference), which had lost six of its seven previous games.
Freshman Joe Gottschalk led Navy with 16 points, most coming late in the game as Navy was pulling away.
American made just 30 percent of its shots. Guard Mike Sampson had 18 points and guard Dale Spears 17.
The Eagles (7-11, 3-4) got only 17 points from their four main inside players -- Daryl Holmes, Eric White, Tom Scherer and Andy Bon Salle.
"We wanted to get off the mark defensively early and establish a tempo," said Navy Coach Pete Herrmann. "We just decided to be aggressive early in the past few games, and, when you can do that, it leads to easier baskets for you on the other end."
The Midshipmen did just that, pressuring the Eagles to miss 13 of their first 15 shots as Hopkins and Reddick, a St. John's High School graduate, controlled inside. At that point, Navy led, 19-6.
"We've been coming out in a man-to-man defense the past two games, and that is really helping us start out aggressive," said Hopkins. "Most of the time, I try to block shots whenever I can, but tonight they weren't adjusting after I blocked the first couple, so I kept going after the shots to block them."
Several times the Eagles cut Navy's lead to four, but the young Midshipmen, who start two freshmen and two sophomores, always restored the margin.
The last time American came that close was when Holmes' basket with 8:23 remaining made it 48-44.
The Midshipmen, however, kept on making four shots, at one point making 19 of 21.
Reserve freshman point guard Eric Harris, who also went to St. John's, made eight of nine foul shots in the second half.
"Navy's pattern has been that it has started slow in most games, and I wanted us to jump on them," said American Coach Eddie Tapscott. "Instead, they did it to us because our kids just weren't ready to play. They took it right at us, backed us into a hole and we were never able to climb out of it."
He didn't like his team's effort although pleased with previously little-used freshmen Fred Tillman and Ron Davenport.
"We are thinking of changing our starting lineup," he said. "We may have to get some kids in there who can give us some aggressive minutes because we aren't getting any from some of the kids who we have been playing."