It was all it was billed to be: Catholic University, the area's cat-and-mouse champions, giving a better George Washington team all it could handle. The Cardinals did everything but make their free throws at the end.
That deficiency was fatal. Down by nine points with four minutes left in regulation and by five points with little more than a minute to play, GW rallied, tied the game on a Curt Jeffries' jumper and won in overtime, 70-66, at Brookland Gym.
"The game plan was perfect," said Jack Kvancz, the CU coach. "We played perfect and we lost the game. What can you say? When you're five up with the ball, it's time to ice up the beer. But you can't win when you miss the free throws."
GW pulled its second big comeback in its last four games, with bombadier Brian Magid on the bench after fouling out with 17 points on eight-of-11 shooting, giving him 51-for-75 accuracy over his past five games.
CU had confused GW with a variety of defenses -- box and one, triangle and two, straight zone and then, in the second half, man to man -- and tested the Colonials' patience with a deliberate four-corners offense.
The Cardinals' unbeaten home record seemed safe. Their spread offense produced points on seven of eight possessions after Kvancz slowed the pace dramatically midway in the second half, when his Cardinals (6-9) tied the game for the first time since the opening minute.
But GW had other ideas.
"After the St. Bonaventure game (when GW came back from 16 down in the final minutes to win going away), if we're within 12-14 points in the last five minutes, my hopes are high. When we've done that before, you never say die," said GW center Mike Zagardo.
The Colonials were helped immediately when Jeffries hit a jumper from the corner and, underneath the basket, referee Fred Hikel observed CU's Bill Dankos gave Zagardo a hefty shove. GW kept possession and Davis hit the first of his eight points for the game on a nice move.
Showing no inclination to shoot anything but for easy layup, CU ran down the clock to under two minutes before Bill Dooley lost control on a dribble with 1:50 to play. But GW could not capitalize, the ball bounding off Zagardo's leg out of bounds.
Then CU's foul-shooting problems began.
With 1:27 to play in regulation, Davis fouled Donnie Farrel, CU's senior point guard who handled GW's full-court pressure well the entire night. Farrell missed the first shot in a-one-and-one.
GW freshman Oscar Wilmington dunked a Davis miss and the Colonials had cut the deficit to 57-54. A good defensive play by Wilmington and Davis resulted in a turnover that Tom Glenn converted into a followup basket, bringing GW within 59-58, with 33 seconds to play. GW Coach Bob Tallent later would call those tip-ins crucial.
GW fouled Joe Colletta on the ensuing inbounds pass. "Perfect, just what we wanted," Kvancz said afterwards. But the 80 percent foul shooter missed the second attempt in the bonus situation and that set up Jeffries' tying basket with 17 seconds to play.
GW quickly gained control in the overtime. Davis connected on a 20-foot jumper and, at the other end, Glenn blocked a Colletta attempt from the lane. Neville, who led his team with 18 points, brought the Cardinals within one, 63-62, but another big offensive rebound by Glenn kept the Colonials in control to increase their record to 9-5.
Dooley and Colletta each scored 16 points for CU.