George Washington, which has seen its share of games slip away this year because of inept free-throw shooting, took advantage of its freebies last night to whip Navy for the 11th straight time, 70-63, at the Smith Center.
The Colonials (10-10) shot the eyes out of the basket, especially in the first half (70 percent) but could not shake the relentless Middies. After leading by eight at the half, 40-32, GW's sloppy play and Navy's Kevin Sinnett turned what had been bordering on a GW runaway into a close game.
"I've been here three years and it's always the same against Navy," GW forward Tom Glenn said. "They're the type of team you can't destroy. They just keep on coming."
Sinnett, who scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, took advantage of Mike Samson's foul problems and began to get inside for easy layups and short jumpers. His driving layup tied the game at 52-52 with 8:44 left.
The Colonials then began a steady trek to the foul line. Samson sank two to put the hosts ahead to stay, 54-53. Mike Zagardo added four more from the line sandwiched around a steal and breakaway by Tom Tate. Brian Magid climaxed an 8-3 spurt to give GW a 62-56 lead with 4:46 to play.
The Middies (9-11) again refused to die. Bruce Grooms hit a jumper from the top of the key, Sinnett plucked off one of GW's 21 turnovers and raced in for a two-hand dunk and Jack Stumborg sank one of two free throws to bring Navy within a point, 62-61, with 3:05 left.
"I guess it's like a creed, or something. They never quit," said Zagardo, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds. "I guess they're taught that. We play a good first half and get a lead, then tend to slack up. And you can't do that against Navy."
This time Navy made the mistakes in the final minutes. After Glenn made two free throws to push GW's advantage to three, 64-61, the Middies fell apart.
A bad pass, a traveling call and two missed 20-footers doomed the Middies' chances of any comeback. In between the visitors' mistakes, GW went into its stall offense.
The ball bounced crazily off a couple of players during the Colonial stall, but each time a hustling GW player came up with the loose ball.
Curtis Jeffries and Zagardo each sank two free throws 15 seconds apart and GW had a safe 68-61 lead with 30 seconds to play.
"I thought we played pretty well in the second half," Navy Coach Bob Hamilton said. "We just made a couple of crucial turnovers in the last couple of minutes."
GW enjoyed a field day shooting against the usually sticky Navy defenders.The Colonials, with Glenn (10 points), Zagardo (nine) and Jeffries (eight) leading the way, threw in baskets from everywhere to go ahead by nine points, 33-24, with 5:01 to play.
At one point GW had made 18 of 21 attempts from the field. The Colonials, despite having one shot blocked and throwing up a desperation 50-footer at the end of the half, sank 19 of 27 from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
Navy didn't panic. Stumborg hit six of nine shots from the outside and Sinnett, who seldom got the ball inside with Samson all over him, managed eight points to keep the Mids from falling out of sight.
"It was kinda scary. Hitting 70 percent and being only eight points ahead," GW Coach Bob Tallent said.
"I thought Samson did a good job on Sinnett in the first half, but once he got those four fouls, Sinnett got going.We didn't play very well; too many turnovers."
Sinnett, who cut a finger on his shooting hand when he slammed it against the backboard in the first half, came out winging after intermission. He accounted for 10 of Navy's first 12 points and 14 of its first 20, including the layup that pulled Navy even at 52.
GW, shooting only 69 percent from the line as a team, then put on a clinic in free-throw shooting, sinking 14 in a row.
Tate's layup, Magid's 22-footer and Samson's game-ending dunk were the only field goals the Colonials scored in the final 15 minutes.
"That's a change for us. We made our foul shots down the stretch," Tallent said.
GW made 26 of 44 from the field to Navy's 27 of 60.
'We've played better. Some games, you come out inspired, others you don't," Tallent said. "This game, we didn't fade."