George Washington, as poor a rebounding and defensive team as there was anywhere last year, showed brief glimpses it has improved in both areas before 3,200 fans at the Smith Center last night. That is, if Catholic, now a Division III and the lone non-Divison I team GW will face this year, is a good barometer to measure by.

The taller and more physical Colonials, getting excellent first games from 6-foot-9 senior transfer Penny Elliott and freshman Mike Brown, wore down outmanned Catholic en route to a 72-59 season-opening triumph.

Brown collected 16 points and 16 rebounds, two fewer than the Smith Center record, and Elliott had 12 points and eight rebounds. The pair contributed 10 of their team's 14 points during a stretch midway in the second half that allowed GW to break open what had been a close game.

Catholic (2-3), with only one starter as tall as 6-6, had little choice but to run a delay, spread-to-score offense and was very successful with it until running out of gas. Two consecutive baskets by point guard Luke D'Alessio (18 points) and a jump shot by Marty Favret enabled Catholic to take its last lead, 40-38, with 12:20 to play in the game.

"We played well for most of the game," Catholic Coach Jack Kvancz said. "We even caught up again in the second half but then we didn't have anything left."

And just at that moment, GW, which underwent a preseason training session comparable to that perfected by the Green Berets, caught second and third winds and left CU gasping for air. Brown started powering his way inside, Elliott and Wilbert Skipper (12) began hitting from the perimeter. A 14-3 spurt, with Brown getting two slam dunks, sent the Colonials charging ahead, 54-43, with 7:37 left to play.

"I was pretty pleased with my first game," said Brown. "I just wanted to get this one over with. A lot of us have never played before and we had to be patient. Once we got started, we were okay."

Said Skipper, "we were a little nervous, tentative early. We saw some things we did wrong but we saw some things we've improved on. It's nice to have a big guy around."

Catholic's delay tactics negated GW's height advantage much of the first half. D'Alessio and Darren Heath had success driving the lane and either getting an easy layup or assist. Chuck Oswald's four layups off the spread helped the Cardinals squeak ahead, 20-18, before Brown and Elliott combined for GW's final 10 points of the half for a 28-20 lead.

"We expected them to run a delay game and we expected our kids to be nervous early. I wasn't that concened about our slow start," said GW's Gerry Gimelstob, making his head coaching debut. "I thought we were slow on some of our defensive reactions and our man to man defense wasn't that good. D'Alessio controlled the game. They were patient and so were we. I was glad to see us get so many rebounds (49-20) and happy for Brown, but Virginia Tech is big and we'll see how good we can rebound Thursday night."

GW employed a tight defense all evening and and forced the sure-handed Cardinals into 14 turnovers. But CU shot a respectable 49 percent (26 of 53) from the floor and committed only 11 personal fouls to stay close