Mike Samson did it again last night.
George Washington's 6-foot-5 senior forward scored 33 points and led the Colonials to an 81-69 Eastern Eight basketball victory over the University of Massachusetts at Smith Center.
George Washington played almost perfect basketball for the first 14 minutes, opening a 38-17 lead. Samson was a leader in this surge with 14 points, two steals and a blocked shot.
Twenty of the 38 points came on fast breaks against a Minuteman team (now 0-4 in the Eastern Eight and 4-9 overall) that was extremely slow in making the transition from offense to defense.
The best Massachusetts play of the night came in the second half when Coach Jack Leaman caught a paper airplane launched from GW's student cheering section. They applauded him and he lifted his arms with the double victory sign.
This is a tough season for the man who coached Julius Erving.His team lacks adequate guards and the only reason the final score was so close was that the only Colonial to play intensely the entire game was Samson.
Despite his team's third straight victory, increasing GW's record to 2-2 in the league and 8-6 overall, Colonial Coach Bob Tallent shouted so loudly at his team in the locker room afterward that he could be heard down the hall at the entrance to the training room.
"We played well and then we kind of waltzed home," Tallent said a few minutes later. "Do we know how to put a game away? Obviously not. We sure didn't want to do it tonight."
Only Samson did, scoring eight of GW's next 10 points when UMass closed to within 63-51 with seven minutes to play. The Colonials simply ran their offense and Samson, who lately has run the plays designed for a team's big forward, broke loose for layups three times and scored another basket following an offensive rebound.
"Samson really played strongly," said Leaman afterward. "We just didn't have the person to guard him."
The Minutemen tried 6-foot-5 Eric Williams.
"Samson hustled the whole game. He's so intense. When he gets somebody his own size, he'll kill them," Tallent said.
Indeed, that has been the case the past three games. Samson had averaged 6.6 points per game and shot 44 percent from the field before Tallent adjusted the offense to get him inside. He has scored 96 points and shot 73 percent (38 of 52) from the field in the last three contests.
John Thompson, the Georgetown coach who sat in the stands and watched the Colonials nip American U. in overtime Monday, said: "I like him. He makes things happen. And he's out there directing, telling the other people what to do."
Those are the things that a coach notices, not the points, and it's something that Tallent had noticed about the Louisville native a long time ago. Only now is Samson's offense catching up to his defense, rebounding and general leadership.
"Samson says nobody's guarding him," Tallent said. "I tell him he's just getting away from his man. He makes so many things happen because he's running so much. He's done it in practice the last two years. He always gets 30 points and 10 rebounds in our scrimmages. Now he's playing with confidence in the games."
Samson also had an explanation as to why GW can't put a game away: "We get out of our offense when we get ahead. We have to learn to keep control and keep up good defense. We take bad shots when we get out of the offense. Then, when it gets tight, we buckle down again. But we'd better straighten up or we're going to get in trouble sometimes."