George Washington used overwhelming defense to open its transition game early in the second half and defeated a poor-shooting Navy team, 60-51, tonight in Halsey Field House.

The Midshipmen held Colonial freshman Mike Brown to zero points in the first half and trailed by only 19-18 at intermission. Brown played more aggressively in the second half and GW (11-8) took off for its first victory here since the 1977-78 season.

Brown made his first six shots after the break. He scored six straight points in the first four minutes of the period to lift GW to a 27-20 lead.

Guards Wilbert Skipper and Mike Brey stopped Navy's best scorers, Rob Romaine and David Brooks, while George Washington got 15 points from forward Steve Perry, in his second straight good game, and 17 points from Skipper, who at times seemed impossible to stop.

The Midshipmen (8-10) shot 36 percent. They fell behind by 15 points midway through the second half, methodically worn down by GW. Romaine, Navy's leading scorer, played only 28 minutes, benched much of the second half with four fouls.

"I sat him down because of the fouls," Coach Paul Evans said. "But he wasn't hitting his shots and was turning the ball over too much."

Romaine totaled 12 points, but six came late in the game when the sophomore guard was forced to long-range jumpers in Navy's desperation.

After the close first half, GW's Oscar Wilmington scored a turnaround jumper for a 21-18 Colonial lead. Myron Simons answered with a layup, pulling Navy back within 21-20. Brown posted up inside and hit a turnaround jumper, then dunked after Brey stole the ball at midcourt. When the GW defense forced Navy's Mike Jones into a five-second, in-bounds violation, the Colonials worked the ball inside again to Brown, who scored on a powerful move past Gary Price.

Colonial guard Dave Hobel did a masterful job of ball-handling in the last five minutes, assisting on several cutting layups by Skipper and Wilmington to keep GW well ahead.

"The better defense we play, the more we'll be able to run," GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob noted. "I've always encouraged running, but we're now starting to play the kind of defense that enables us to break. We did most of that second-half scoring off rebounds and steals."

Evans, while upset with his team's poor shooting, said Brown's scoring flurry was the key.

"We didn't change any defense on him," Evans said. "He just posted up a little higher (in the lane) and became more authoritative on offense."

Said Gimelstob: "We all expect so much of Brown, including me. He's only a freshman, but we tend to forget that. These teams approach playing us with the thought of stopping him, as if he were an upperclassman.

"But with Perry and Skipper playing so well, that takes some pressure off of Mike. Right now, we're really playing good basketball, and I'm happy with the improvement. If we can keep playing like this in February, we still have a chance at a postseason tournament bid."