When Duquesne players stepped to the foul line last night, George Washington's animated scoreboard and band encouraged the Dukes to shoot "bricks" in the Eastern Eight basketball opener.
But it was the home team, hobbled by injuries to key players Mike Zagardo and Curt Jeffries, that put up the bricks, missing a lot of free throws and tossing a lot of bad passes en route to a 70-64 loss before 3,700 at Smith Center.
George Washington fell behind during one six-possession stretch of the first half, when four colonial regulars were on the bench, and Duquesne expanded a 22-21 lead to 30-21. From there, GW had to play catch-up, and managed to get within two points twice in the final five minutes.
But Duquesne, a big, veteran team, would not fold, making 15 straight free throws down the stretch.
Zagardo, the superb 6-foot-10 Colonial center who has practiced for only two weeks following a two-month layoff with an ankle injury, failed to score a field goal in 37 minutes.
Duquesne also defensed him niftily, with a sagging zone that made it nearly impossible for the Colonials to work the ball inside.
"We're a little bit disorganized right now, until Zagardo and Jeffries get back to full strength," GW Coach Bob Tallent said. "We made a lot of turnovers and missed a lot of foul shots. What can you say?"
Zagardo finished with four points and 10 rebounds against a Duquesne team that outrebounded GW, 41-29. Last season, GW held a five-rebound-per-game advantage over its opponents. Zagardo made four of seven foul shots, slightly better than the team's 12-for-22 accuracy.
Brian Magid, the sharpshooting senior guard, led GW with 20 points. Doug Arnold topped Duquesne with 19 points, 14 in the first half.
In that key first-half stretch, in which the Colonials fell nine points down, they were playing a lineup that included four youngsters and Tom Glenn, the team's most physically gifted but most inconsistent player.
Early on, GW had the ball and a chance to go ahead. Instead, Curtis Smith, a junior-college transfer, threw a bad pass. Yet the Colonials got the ball back when Glenn blocked a shot at the other end. Then freshman Randy Davis threw the ball away.
When Colonials did not turn the ball over, they threw up impatient shots from the outside, first by Jimmy Stepp, then by Davis. And when center Fred Moon made two baskets and Ronnie Dixon two free throws, it was 28-21.
Tallent hustled his starters back in. Zagardo was off on a pass to Magid and, when Arnold stripped Smith of the ball and scored on a fast break, it was 30-21 and Tallent needed a timeout to calm his players.
They fell as many as 12 points behind in the second half before rallying, as flashy freshman Oscar Wilmington, a 6-3 forward with long, long arms, acted the catalyst.
"I saw some positive things, too," Tallent said, meaning the play of Wilmington.
But he was disappointed by Glenn, who had looked better in preseason practice than at any time in the past. He scored 12 points, but had seven turnovers -- some in the GW comeback -- and his defense was questionable.
"I thought he would play better being a senior and all," said Tallent.
And Zagardo, who earlier this week had said he would consider red-shirting if he did not play well his first three games, said the ankle did not bother him.
"They cut off the middle pretty well," he said. "They're just a bunch of big physical guys and we had a hard time getting the ball inside. And when we did get it inside, the people there weren't in good position."