After a few minutes of what George Washington point guard Mike Brey referred to as "instructions," the Colonials came out in the second half last night in Smith Center and slowly took Massachusetts apart. Result: a convincing 79-65 Eastern Eight decision.
"We didn't play any defense at all in the first half and the coach (Gerry Gimelstob) talked to us about a few things at halftime. We got some, ahem, instructions," said Brey, alluding to GW's sometimes shoddy play in taking a two-point halftime edge. "In the second half, we played much better defense and Mike (Brown) took over the game."
Brown, totaling 20 points and 11 rebounds, had lots of help in the second half when the Colonials blew the game open. Steve Perry and Dave Hobel, recently installed starters, both scored season highs of 22 points. Perry had five rebounds and four blocks; Hobel picked off six rebounds and dealt five assists.
The Colonials (6-4 in the conference and 12-10 overall), especially needed this victory in their tight struggle for one of the first four spots in the Eastern Eight. The top four teams will host first-round conference playoff games. The sixth victory was also the most by GW in any of its six years in the conference. UMass, which dropped its eighth straight game to GW, fell to 3-7 and 7-14.
The hustling Minutemen, starting three freshmen and two sophomores, used a variety of defenses, a 16-9 rebounding avantage and 16 combined points from Donald Russell and Horace Neysmith in the first half and trailed by only 33-31 at intermission.
Paul Gracza, starting in place of injured Oscar Wilmington at forward for GW, scored twice off offensive rebounds and Hobel hit a pair of jumpers during a 14-6 Colonial rush in the first seven minutes of the second half. A Dan Sullivan tipin gave the Colonials a 47-37 margin. The Minutemen got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"GW adjusted to our defenses in the second half and we got a few guys in foul trouble," UMass' first-year Coach Tom McLaughlin. "Once they got ahead, our young kids sort of let up. I'd still like to know how a 6-foot-9 guy like Brown, who plays as physical as he does, doesn't get one foul."
The Minutemen were so conscious of Brown, who scored 25 in GW's 14-point victory at UMass earlier in the season, that they virtually ignored Hobel and Perry. The strategy seemed good sense, since Hobel had two points in 16 minutes and Perry had zero points and one rebound in three minutes in the first game.
"The confidence is there now. I'm getting the time and playing the way I'm capable of playing," said Perry, who has played very well since becoming a starter four games ago. "We don't have a Ralph Sampson to clear out the middle so everyone has to do his part."
Each time Russell (22 points), who is vying with Brown for conference freshman of the year, and Neysmith (17) tried to rally their side, Brown or Hobel would counter. Neysmith, a 6-5 guard who likes to power his way inside, scored eight of his team's 10 points at one juncture, but the Colonials got baskets from four of their number in taking a hefty, 75-59 lead with three minutes on the clock.
"That was it, we got a good, balanced effort from everyone," said Gimesltob, whose team plays a key game Saturday at Rutgers. "Brown dominated the inside and Hobel and Brey played well outside. We changed our defense a little in the second half by putting more pressure on their guards out front. We contained Russell and Neysmith much better."