It was one of those crazy, crazy nights that have become all too familiar for the George Washington basketball team.
The Colonials played well for 35 minutes, but the other five gave St. Francis (Pa.) just enought time to overcome a 13-point second-half deficit and eke out an 80-78 victory on Joe Schoen's close-in shot with one second remaining at the Smith Center.
The Red Flash's sixth straight victory, and first over GW in four tries, improved their record to 10-5. The Colonials dropped their third straight and fell to 4-9.
"This one really hurts," said Coach Bob Tallent. "When you get a team down by 13 in the second half you should be able to stick it to them. We got complacent and nonchalant. We thought the game was over."
The Colonials, hampered by their usual height disadvantage, used speed and aggressive defense to foil the visitors' huge front line, led by the 6-foot-9 Schoen, the East's leading rebounder last year. Curtis Jeffries and Oscar Wilmington, who had a game-high 23 points, sparked GW to a 42-33 halftime lead.
The Colonials increased that margin to an apparently safe 60-47 lead with 11 minutes left. Then the Red Flash, who Coach Dave Magarity said "are so slow, we go to the zoo to watch the turtles zip by," grew desperate and turned on the press.
"No way a team that slow should be able to press us," Tallant said. But St. Francis did, causing numerous turnovers while creeping back into contention. A 68-56 deficit was quickly trimmed to 71-67, and St. Francis took a 75-74 lead on Magruder High graduate Steve Rogers' baseline jumper with 1:45 left. Jeffries tied it with a free throw, then Bob Powell, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, made a hook shot. Randy Davis's jumper tied the score at 78 with 16 seconds to go.
Then came the finale. St. Francis' Bob Convey drove the lane and was stuffed by Wilmington. The ball bounced off three or four players and came to Schoen. He just beat the buzzer with a four-footer.
"That game was ours," said Jeffries, who scored 17 points and committed only one turnover in 30 minutes. "This could really damage our confidence."
"We must be snake-bit," Wilmington said. "We played well, didn't get any breaks, and lost. Again."