George Washington may have grown up last night.
The youthful Colonials refused to be intimidated by big, bad Pittsburgh and rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to steal a 79-74 decision in an Eastern Eight contest before 1,500 at the Smith Center.
The Colonials, now 2-0 in the conference and 7-4 overall, trailed, 47-35, with 17:33 left in the game before putting together probably their best second-half effort.
Sensational outside shooting by GW guards Wilbert Skipper (24 points) and Mike Brey (nine) got the Colonials back into the game. Brey, who rarely shoots (12 shots in four games), was left alone all night and the point guard finally decided to try a few. He burned Pitt's sagging zone for four straight 18-footers from the top of the key, the final one tying the game at 52 with 9:46 remaining. Then Mike Brown joined the fun.
The 6-foot-9 freshman, who missed 10 of his first 13 shots, began hitting his favorite turnaround shot on the base line despite some heavy pushing and shoving by the muscular Pitt front line. When Brown wasn't hitting from outside, he was going to the free throw line. With the score tied at 52, he scored nine of his team's next 15 points to give GW a 67-62 lead.
"I was getting a little frustrated in the first half because the shots weren't falling," said Brown, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds. "But they were good shots and they finally started falling."
Pitt Coach Roy Chipman wasn't as impressed with Brown's performance, blaming his team's defense.
"That was the worst defense we've played in two years," Chipman said. "We came out and jumped on them, going up by 12, then stopped playing basketball. There's absolutely no excuse for us giving up like that."
A steal and breakaway by Skipper gave the Colonials their biggest lead, 69-62, with 3:23 to play. But the hosts kept the game interesting by missing nine free throws, three of them on the front end of one and ones in the final five minutes.
"I had to be pleased," said GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob. "We didn't change a thing. Our defense wasn't bad, we just needed to execute it better. We had a good game plan and we stayed with it."
Pitt, 0-2 and 8-4, tried to regroup, but only Clyde Vaughan (19 points and 16 rebounds) and Dwayne Wallace (14) were effective in the final minutes. Wallace hit two driving shots and Billy Culbertson hit a long basket to bring the Panthers to within three points, 73-70, with 1:14 left.
But the Colonials sank six straight free throws, four by Dave Hobel, to make the victory certain.