On a night its top three scorers would rather forget, the George Washington basketball team minded previously untapped ground and pulled out an 86-78 upset of Richmond.
The jewels of this victory, two days after GW Coach Bob Tallent put his players through a four-hour "old-fashioned butt-kicking practice" following a lackadaisical victory, were sophomore guard Jimmy Stepp and freshman forward Oscar Wilmington, along with junior forward Paul Graczo.
The trio, whose combined output this 4-2 season were 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, tonight and 43 points and 16 rebounds. Stepp, who plays behind leading scorer Brian Magid, hit a career-high 18 points.
"Our three seniors stunk," said Tallent, referring to the play of Magid, center Mike Zagardo and forward Tom Glenn. "They could play a lot better, and that's what makes this such a heartening -- for the threeree seniors to have such a lousy game and for us to win on the road."
With Stepp hitting everything in sight, GW shot 64 percent in the second half.
Tallent's main reason for putting his team through Thursday's grueling practice was an inconsistency in effort by his substitutes in practice. Tonight, they played with enthusiasm against a Richmond team that fouled excessively.
"Everybody got to thinking we have to win because we don't want to run like this all the time," said Wilmington, who scored all his 13 points in the last 11 minutes of the game.
GW made 32 to 36 free throws, extending its two-game streak to 39 straight before missing. But that miss -- by Wilt Wilmington -- resulted in GW's biggest possession of the game.
The Colonials turned the miss into four points. Gracza, a 6-foot-6 junior who led all rebounders with 10, tipped the Wilmington miss back outside to Curtis Jefferies, who played strongly despite being charged with 11 of GW's 23 turnovers.
GW worked a nifty play to Stepp for an open jumper from the right side. On the left side, under the basket, Richmond's Vince Cowan was detected pushing Glenn in the struggle for rebounding position. Glenn converted both ends of a bonus situation and GW led, 66-60, with 7:21 to play.
Richmond, now 4-4, never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
During a 15-possession stretch GW turned a 56-49 Richmond lead into a 74-64 Colonial advantage by averaging a whopping 1.73 points per possession.
Stepp got this streak started with a looping 20-foot jumper and scored 10 of his points in this stretch when GW busted Richmond's 2-3 match-up zone.
Magid, GW's leading scorer, seemed unsure of himself tonight after the three-man officiating crew called three early traveling violations on him. He missed all seven field-goal attempts and finished with two points.
"A lot of people," said Gracza, "don't realize we are kind of deep. Jimmy is just as good a shooter as Brian is. This win gives us (the reserves) confidence. It shows that we can play and contribute, which is important."
Stepp, the leading scorer in Kentucky as a high school senior, says it has been frustrating waiting on the bench behing Magid.
"But I know I'm playing behind a great shooter," Stepp said. "Now I know when he isn't on, the coach will go to me."
Wilmington, who is 6-3 and has arms long enough to play like someone 6-8, showed a strong knack to go to the basket, scoring eight of his points inside, including the layup with 1:50 to play that clinched GW's victory.
It was a tough loss for Lou Goetz, Richmond's second-year coach who watched two of his players foul out, including Cowan, who scored 22 points in a reserve role.
"We just can't put them on the line that much," said Goetz. "It seemed like, for three or four seconds, we had them where we wanted them and then, pow, we committed a foul and let them out of the predicament."