Before last night's Eastern Eight game with St. Bonaventure, George Washington Coach Bob Tallent had to smile a bit when the visitors trotted out for warmups without their all-America candidate, 6-foot-6 senior Earl Belcher. The 1979-80 Eastern Eight player of the year was back in New York resting a sore knee and a cut hand.
Without Belcher, averaging 27.3 points and 7.5 rebounds, to contend with, George Washington had an unaccustomed party on the backboards and ending with a Steve Perry dunk with 14 seconds left, stunned the Bonnies, 62-60, before 1,000 at Smith Center.
The Colonials, now 1-0 in the conference and 2-4 overall, also got a helping hand from the Bonnies, who suddenly lost their touch from the foul line down the stretch. Behind by four points, 58-54, the Bonnies missed four free throws, two of them front ends of bonus situations.
"You've got to make the free throws," said Bonaventure Coach Jim Satalin, after his club fell to 2-2 in the conference and 3-2 overall. "And our rebounding was a joke (GW outrebounded St. Bonnaventure, 47-20). We had outrebounded everyone we'd played before this game. We missed Earl but to sum this up, we missed from the line and didn't rebound."
While the Bonnies were missing at the line, GW lost the ball twice without taking a shot and Curtis Jeffries missed the first of a one-and-one. A running bank shot by Mark Jones (career-high 20 points) pulled the Bonnies within a basket, 58-56, with 1:25 to play. Following a GW miss, Bonnie guard Norm Clarke missed a chance to tie the game from the line.
GW's Paul Gracza made one shot from the strip but Alfonza Jones quickly scored on a 14-footer and St. Bonaventure trailed by only 59-58 with 32 seconds remaining.
After a Bonnie Timeout, the visitors appeared to have forced a GW back-court violation before Colonial guard Randy Davis dribbled through a group of defenders to cross half court. Davis, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, spotted the 6-5 Perry in the corner. The freshman never hesitated, taking three long strides before ramming through a two-handed dunk to draw GW away, 61-58.
"Randy made a good play to beat the 10-second count and his pass to Perry for the dunk was a big play," said Tallent. "I thought both teams played good defense. I know they missed Belcher. I hope I never see him. It broke my heart that he missed the game."
Without their clutch performer to go to, the Bonnies had to rely on outside shooting. Jones missed from 15 feet and had no choice but to foul. Jeffries (13 points) made a free throw for a 62-58 advantage with :007 left. GW simply watched the clock tick off the final seconds as Jones sped in for a layup at the buzzer.
GW, which starts a front line of 6-6, 6-6 and 6-3, continually got inside and somehow collected a bundle of offensive rebounds.