All season long Navy has had its problem from the free throw line. The Mids were no world beaters from the line tonight, either, but managed to sink five of their final nine tries to shock George Washington, 69-65, before 1,050 at Halsey Field House.
Navy (10-11), in snapping a five-game losing streak, led by as many as 13 points and only its inability to hit from the charity stripe allowed the Colonials (14-8) to get close at the end.
With Navy leading 55-46 at the 10-minute mark of the second half, GW's Mike Zagardo, held to six points by aggressive Mid center John Geshay, joined starting teammates Brian Magid and Curtis Jeffries on the bench with four fouls. But the visitors scratched and hustled their way back into the contest.
In between Navy misses, both from the field and the line, Randy Davis, Dave Thornton and Tom Glenn scored baskets to help GW cut the deficit to 59-54 with 5:25 to play.
Navy, which had lost five straight games to GW, then went to its delay game. The strategy proved sound as the Colonials had little choice but to foul.But Navy botched one free throw after another, five of them front ends of one-in-one situations.
After Chuck Greene's miss from the line, GW's Jimmy Stepp powered his way inside for a three-point play to cut the deficit to 64-61 with 45 seconds to play.
GW was more than willing to foul players, who looked tentative, if not uncomfortable at the line. A loud roar went up when David Brooks dropped in two from the line to push Navy up, 66-61.
GW Coach Bob Tallent had rushed his starting troops back in and Magid (16 points) threw in a 25-footer before the Mid defense could begin to set up. (That cut the Mid lead to 66-63 with 19 seconds to play.
GW quickly fouled again and Navy cooperated again. Rich Davidson missed his free throw but outfought a Colonial for the loose ball. Greene was fouled again but, to no one's surprise, he also missed his chance to ice the game.
Magid let fly with another one of his satellite sifters and GW was right there, 66-65, with eight seconds to play.
"Those two shots he hit at the end were . . . ," said Navy Coach Bob Hamilton, shaking his head in disbelief. "Right in the bottom of the net."
Hamilton made sure Magid would not get another shot off as he used both Greene and Brooks to defend him at half court.
Rich Davidson hit a free throw to put Navy up, 67-65. He missed the second but leaped high for the offensive rebound.
"They missed the foul shots but we didn't get the rebounds," Tallent said. "Those were two big plays."
Davidson, feeling no pressure with one second left, closed out the scoring with another pair freebies from the line.
GW players were not happy with the officiating but didn't use that as an excuse. A total of 48 fouls were called and perhaps 30 more could have been called by referees Fred Hess and Joe Hannan. On one play, Magid suffered a nosebleed from a blow from Greene. No foul was called. Players from both teams consistently shoved underneath and threw elbows.
Geshay's manhandling tactics were effective in stopping the Colonials' inside force -- Zagardo. The 6-foot-10 senior only tried eight shots, making three. He did not attempt a foul shot despite being knocked to the floor at least four times.
With no offense from Zagardo, the Colonials relied on the long-range bombing of Magid and the leaping layups of Oscar Wilmington to stay in the game in the first half.
The Colonials' defense was awful in the first 20 minutes as they allowed the patient Mids to beat them consistently for easy layups and open jumpers. Geshay scored 13 points, mostly on power moves or follow-up layups, John Myers' 12 and Davidson's 10 helped Navy from a 19-19 dead-lock to a 43-30 lead with two minutes left before intermission.
Magid drilled home a 25-foot bomb at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 11 points, 45-34.
The Mids, who have had problems handling a press, managed to get the ball upcourt against GW.Even when the Colonials came up with a steal, they failed to score. GW hit 29 of 67 field goals but missed 10 of its last 13 shots.