The basketball players at the university named for George Washington nearly ruined his birthday last night before hanging on for a frantic 84-79 victory over Navy at Smith Center.
The triumph was the 100th for GW Coach Bob Tallent and George Washington's sixth this year against 16 losses. Navy, which lost its 12th game in the last 13 against the Colonials, dropped to 8-15.
"Let's wait until I get 700 wins before you throw me in the shower," Tallent pleaded as his players descended on the trainer's room. "Better, yet, when the season's over, we'll all get in the shower."
There are some who might rather see Tallent and his players in the Potomac, preferably with weights attatched to their bodies. This has not been a pleasant season for Foggy Bottom faithful, who have endured losing streaks of seven and three games. Lastnight's victory was the second in the last 12 for the beleaguered Colonials, but Tallent's smile could have lighted the Washington Monument.
"I remember all the wins vividly this year," he said. "We played real hard tonight, and we hustled all game. I think this one will give us confidence."
Like everything else GW had done this season, it wasn't easy. After a see-saw beginning, the Colonials took the lead for good at 18-17 on Oscar Wilmington's jumper with 6:03 left in the first half. A suffocating press led to several Navy turnovers, and when the teams went to the locker room, GW led, 34-26, despite 54 percent shooting by Navy.
After the Mid's Bill Freitag opened the next half with a jumper, GW scored the next eight points, six by guard Curtis Jefferies, and had Navy gasping at 43-28. GW. maintained that margin to the 13-minute mark, and seemed home free.
Not for long. While the Colonials lost contact with the hoop, the Mids ran off with eight points and suddenly were back in it at 55-48.
"That was like deja vu," said Tallent, who earlier this year watched his club blow huge second-half leads against St. Francis and Rhode Island. "I thought, 'Here we go again.'"
His fears were well founded. The mids kept scratching and clawing, and behind Dave Brooks and Gary Price, gradually trimmed their deficit to 75-73 with 1:12 remaining.
"Worried wasn't the word," Jefferies acknowledged. "We were scared. I think we had a little letdown."
"They hit a couple of three-point baskets, and the momentum just sort of shifted," said GW guard Wilbert Skipper, who made 10 out of 18 shots and led both clubs with 24 points. "We didn't give up or anything like that. We just let down a little."
Not quite far enough for Navy, though. After Jefferies and Bob Romaine traded two free throws each, the Mids' bench rose en masse to protest the officials' failure to call what they thought was as traveling violation by Randy Davis. Before they sat down, they had been assessed a technical foul.
"How can they be watching our bench,"Navy Coach Paul Evans wondered. "Somehow, I doubt that all 12 guys can be wrong. They didn't even do anything except yell that he walked. It's a two point game in the last minute and this guy's watching out bench instead of the court."
"I don't think we got a fair shake," said Evans. "You score five more field goals than the home team and lose the game. Something's wrong."
After davis missed the first shot of the technical, Skipper made the second. Ten seonds later, Davis drove the lane for a basket and an 80-75 advantage. Skipper finished Navy with a fast-break dunk with 22 seconds left.