George Washington shot a stunning 62 percent from the field for 40 minutes, but had no way to contain Pittsburgh defensively and the Colonials fell to an 85-80 defeat tonight in a controversy-filled Eastern Eight playoff opener.
A number of officiating calls upset both coaches, but the one that slugged George Washington's Bob Tallent where it hurt most was one that referee Charles Diehl didn't make.
GW was down at 81-80, with 14 seconds to play, when Pitt's Sam Clancy collided with Colonial forward Mike Samson after feeding Sammie Ellis for a game-clinching dunk.
Tallent and Samson screamed foul. Diehl said no.
"We didn't lose it tonight, the refs won that one," an angry Tallent declared. "It was obvious that Clancy charged Samson and he didn't call it. The ref just choked. Clancy was completely out of control. He ran right over Samson. That was the game right there as far as I am concerned. It was as obvious as can be."
If a foul had been called on Clancy, Ellis' basket would not have counted and Samson would have been shooting one and one.
The defeat, at the Pitt Field House, ended the Colonials' season at 13-14, their first losing campaign since 1972.
"For things to end like they did is just wrong," said Samson.
"They (the Panthers) choked. They missed free throws and everything and they still win," Samson said, shaking his head.
It was a bizarre finish to a game that was suspenseful throughout.
Pitt led, 81-76, on a basket by Carlton Neverson with 2:36 left.
Neither team could score again, however, until only 36 seconds remained when Bob Lindsay made a pair of free throws for GW.
Pitt's Terry Knight missed the front end of a one-and-one with 0:34 to play and Mike Zagardo rebounded for GW.
Samson scored after grabbing an offensive rebound and it became 81-80 with 19 seconds left.
The controversial play with Clancy followed nine seconds later. Then GW turned the ball over and Pete Strickland, the Pitt guard from De Matha, made two free throws at :004.
Knight, who had missed another one-and-one with 50 seconds remaining, led the Panthers with 21 points. Ellis scored 20 and so did strongman Clancy.
Zagardo, who scored his 1,000th career point tonight, led the Colonials with 19. Samson had 16 and Brian Magid 15.
Magid's deadly outside shooting -- five of six, all from beyond 20 feet -- in the first half helped the Colonials to 73 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
GW made its first eight shots and missed only six of 22 in the half. Still, the Colonials trailed, 43-41, at intermission.
Magid had 13 of his points in the first half. Despite his hot hand, he spent most of the second half on the bench.
"He just had a hard time getting the ball upcourt," Tallent said. "I couldn't leave him in."
Magid committed five turnovers in the 18 minutes he played.
The man for Pitt, which advanced to the conference semifinals against Villanova on Thursday at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, was 6-6, 245-pound Clancy.
In addition to his scoring, he notched 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals and was definitely the game's dominating force.
"He killed us when we played a man-to-man, so we went to a zone," Tallent lamented. "and then we couldn't stop the rest of them."
GW owned a 19-16 lead after Magid's 12th and 13th points, but Pitt put together a 15-4 run and took a 33-25 advantage.
Clancy scored eight of the points, with two goals on dunks after taking lob passes and another basket after he stole the ball from Zagardo.
The Colonials scrambled back, mainly because Lindsay entered the fray and scored nine points in the final eight minutes of the half.
The lead seesawed in the second half, but GW's last time on top was when Samson's fast-break basket provided a 64-63 edge with 10:20 to play.