Little-used sophomore Steve Perry, who had played his way to the end of the George Washington bench, got what Coach Gerry Gimelstob called a last chance last night. He used it to become the catalyst the Colonials needed to break a four-game losing streak.
Starting in place of inconsistent Penny Elliott, the 6-foot-5 Perry had season highs of 11 points and six rebounds and was outstanding defensively in leading GW past St. Bonaventure, 78-64, in an Eastern Eight game before 2,300 at Smith Center.
GW raised its record to 10-8, 5-2 in the conference. The Bonnies, who had won three straight, one a 68-44 rout of GW a week ago in Olean, N.Y., fell to 9-9, 4-4. Rob Samuels scored a game-high 19 points for St. Bonaventure, which shot only 40 percent against GW's aggressive man-to-man defense.
Gimelstob, who decided to start Perry two hours before game time, said he told the former Gar-Field all-Met, "Either play up to your ability tonight or you won't ever play at all." Perry had played only 69 minutes and made seven baskets in GW's first 17 games.
"He has a lot of ability, but he hadn't been playing well," said Gimelstob. "So, we decided to give him his chance and he played very well. I was happy for him, his teammates were happy for him and, I think, Steve was happy."
He was. Perry also had three blocks, three assists, three steals and several floor burns in his 29 minutes. Nine of his points came in the first half as the Colonials gained a 29-20 lead.
"I was a little uphappy I wasn't playing because I felt I could contribute," he said. "Once I was sixth man and then I wasn't playing at all. I didn't know what was happening. When Coach told me I was starting, I said, 'Well, I'll go out and play my game. If I don't do anything, I'll go back to the bench and won't complain.' "
The only time Perry sat down was when he took a rest. Otherwise, he and Oscar Wilmington (17 points, eight rebounds, three blocks), Wilbert Skipper (18 points, six assists) and Mike Brown, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half, did a number on the Bonnies.
St. Bonaventure had the misfortune of meeting a Colonial team that was determined to play good defense after being embarrassed in a five-point loss to Rhode Island Thursday night. GW unceasingly harassed the Bonnies, forcing 16 turnovers and outrebounding the visitors, 32-28.
"When you lose four straight, what does a coach have to say," Wilmington said. "You have to just go out and play better defense. We forced turnovers and everyone contributed."
The Bonnies never got going. Mark Jones, their leading scorer (17.7), couldn't shake Mike Brey and made only five of 15 shots and finished with 16 points, most coming long after the outcome no longer was in doubt.
A flurry of baskets by Skipper, Brown and Wilmington sent the Colonials out to a 47-33 lead with 11:42 to play. But the Bonnies turned several Colonial turnovers into easy baskets and closed within five points on four occasions. GW led, 56-51, with 4:58 left, then outscored the Bonnies, 18-6, to take a 74-57 lead with less than two minutes left.
"Their man-to-man defense took us right out of our offense," said Bonnies Coach Jim Satalin.