In the first half last night, George Washington recorded six field goals and 13 turnovers. Consequently the Colonials were never a threat to a Penn State team that must rank as one of the winter's surprises.
The Lions won, 63-53, matching the second worst GW defeat in the five years since Smith Center was dedicated. Discounting the scoreboard figures, it had to be the worst, because Penn State was in control from start to finish and, after the first six minutes, led by at least nine points and by as many as 17.
Penn State won its 17th game -- against nine losses -- for the first time since 1972. The Lions have captured 13 of their last 15 and must be considered a tournament possibility. GW, now 14-9, travels to Georgetown and Massachusetts before beginning play in the Eastern Eight Tournament.
"This is the happiest we've been," said Penn State Coach Dick Harter. "Number 17 is special. It came in our last road game and it opens the door to a possible NIT bid for us. It is a surprise to win that many, but our club has played great basketball down the stretch.
"We played good defense tonight and it was nice to have a little cushion. It was a sometimes-ragged game and I'm not claiming it was artistic, but we had some good periods, especially in the first six minutes."
After GW's Tom Glenn scored the opening basket, Penn State's 6-9 junior center, Frank Brickowski, scored eight straight points on a layup, two free throws, a turnaround jumper and a dunk off a fast break.
Glenn, the game's high scorer with 14 points, stopped the string with a three-point play, but Brickowski hit a jumper for a 10-5 Penn State lead.
Although Brickowski did not score again, he was the defense-minded Lions' only player in double figures.
GW took a temporary respite from its man-to-man defense and tried a 2-1-2 zone. That stopped Brickowski, but nobody else. With the Colonials missing shots and the Lions stealing passes and converting fast breaks, Penn State built its lead to 21-m after 8 1/2 minutes.
The biggest differential came at 38-21 and it was still substantial, 50-34, with 7 1/2 minutes remaining. At that point the Colonials applied tight full-court pressure and made their only real run at the Lions.
A court-length throwaway, a five-second violation on an inbounds pass andd a traveling call helped GW reduce the deficit to 50-41. However, Mike Lang and Springbrook graduate Scott Wolt broke free for uncontested layups to open the gap again.
"After it got sticky, those easy baskets put it away," Harter said. "I wasn't really concerned, though. We had timeouts left, our players had not fouled out and I think we were in control. They weren't going to get six field goals to take it away."
The Colonials, six to 23 from the floor in the first half, improved to 13 of 29 after the intermission. The resulting 36.5 shooting percentage probably improved Penn State's pregame ranking as the nation's forth-best team in field-goal percentage defense. The Lions rank third in fewest points-allowed per game, an average of 57.
Penn State finished with 16 assists and 13 steals. GW had five assists and three steals. The Colonials' Brian Magid hit four of 11 shots. Glenn was six for 15 and center Mike Zagardo connected on just one of five.
"We played Zagardo well," Harter said. "We kicked him out of his normal area. He's physical under there, so we had to be physical."
As usual, the Lions were very physical, a fact not lost on a fan who saw GW's Curt Jeffries crunched by two players and shouted, "Hey, the guard is supposed to take out the linebacker."
On this night, a team effort blew out the Colonials.