George Washington built a 25-point second-half lead over Rutgers at Smith Center last night, then held on for a 74-71 victory.
It took Rutgers only 6 1/2 minutes to close a 53-28 GW advantage to 57-54, with eight minutes to play.
But the Colonials did not panic, as they have previously this season, and could have won going away had they not missed the front end of six bonus situations.
GW Coach Bob Tallent, to overcome the collapses, benched senior point guard Tom Tate last night after 59 straight starts.
The reasoning: Tate appears to be GW's only steadying influence at the end of a tight game. The Colonials had lost their last four and in three of those Tate was on the bench at the end.
Tate's bounce pass to fellow guard Curtis Jeffries provided an unmolested layup for a 68-62 lead with 1:25 to play. It was the key basket down the stretch for GW in this Eastern Eight game that kept alive the Colonial hopes for a home-court advantage in the first round of the league tournament.
The crowd of 4,600 saw a 2-hour 16-minute game in which 62 fouls and 49 turnovers were committed. Rutgers, using a full-court zone press and a half-court trap, commited 20 fouls in the second half of the catch-up effort.
That aggressive defense also helped account for 16 second-half turnovers by GW. Twelve came as the Scarlet Knights were closing the GW margin to 62-60.
However, that nothing-to-lose approach cost Rutgers the services of center James Bailey, who palyed the point of the 1-2-2 zone press before fouling out with 11:46 to play.
Bailey scored 20 points. But he was absent from the game for most of the 8 1/2 minutes in which GW held the Scarlet Knights without a field goal, outscored them, 22-3, and grabbed a 24-7 lead midway in the first half.
GW, 3-4 in the Eastern Eight, has had few breaks during this injuryplagued 10-11 season. But they got one last night, when GW center Mike Zagardo accidently caught Bailey in the left eye with a finger as they scrambled for a rebound in the second minute of the contest.
Without their All-America -- the Rutgers fans call this team King James and his court -- the other Knights stuttered badly, missing 10 straight shots and committing six turnovers and GW took advantage of almost every miscue.
This put GW in commanding position and the Colonials led by as many as 23 points in the first haof as mercurial Tom Glenn scored 14 points, collected eight rebounds and made two assists.
The Colonials withstood Rutgers' half-court trapping pressure early in the second half and built their lead to 53-28 on Mike Samson's Jeffriesassisted layup with 14:31 to play.
Rutgers called a timeout and the Scarlet Knights came back with the zone press. They quickly scored 14 of the next 16 points and 26 of the next 30 in a span in which GW made nine turnovers and was able to get off only three shots.
"It was a result of sloppy ball Migid, who started for Tate to give the Colonials more offense, made the free shot for his 11th point and the final margin.
Rutgers is 6-2 in the Eastern Eight, 12-7 overall. handling," said Tallent. "The players had a lack of confidence and that's understandable. This win will do a lot for our confidence."
With Tate renning things, GW had only one turnover in the final 7:15.
A layup by Bob Lindasy, following an offensive rebound, gave the Colonials a 64-60 lead and two free throws by Zagardo, following a tip from the bench by freshman Jimmy Stepp, made it 66-61 with five minutes to play.
GW extened the margin to 71-62 with less than a minute to play, before a furious Rutgers rally closed to 73-71 with one second to play. The time had run off the clock and GW's starters had to be retrieved from the locker room when Rutgers called time and the referee agreed there was one second to play!
But it also was Rutgers' sixth timeout, an automatic technical, and Brian