Rutgers held George Washington University scoreless the first six minutes of the second half today and the result was a 51-45 loss for the underdog Colonials at Rutgers Athletic Center.
Since West Virginia has all but clinched the Eastern Eight Conference championship, the slow-paced game went a long way toward deciding second place in the league. The Scarlet Knights are 6-4 in the league and in second; GW is third at 6-5. The first four teams in the final standings will be the host teams in the first round of the conference tournament.
Trailing by a point at intermission, Rutgers took control in those six minutes by scoring eight points. GW never recovered.
Freshman Brian Ellerbe of Bowie led the Scarlet Knights (15-7) with 12 points, all in the second half. Guard Wilbert Skipper scored 20 points for GW (12-11), but GW's star freshman center, Mike Brown of nearby East Orange, was held to a season-low two points.
Rutgers shot poorly the first half but GW failed to take advantage. The first three times Brown touched the ball, he walked twice and had a shot blocked. After being whistled for his second foul, with seven minutes remaining, Brown was benched. In his 33 minutes, he missed all seven of his field-goal attempts and got six rebounds.
"Mike Brown was very nervous," Gerry Gimelstob, GW's coach, said. "He had his family and high school coach here and was very tight. He did do a job rebounding, though."
It was also a disappointing homecoming for Gimelstob, who is a Newark native.
In the first half, GW outrebounded Rutgers, 16-7, as the hosts' front court totaled one.
"We spent an awful lot of time talking about rebounding during halftime," Tom Young, Rutgers' coach, said. In the second half, Rutgers outrebounded GW, 16-9, and seldom gave the Colonials a second shot.
As GW suffocated inside from a Rutgers' 3-2 zone, the only relief came from the perimeter. Skipper and Dave Hobel scored all but 15 of GW's points. Hobel's three-point play cut the Rutgers lead to four with about one minute remaining. But Chris Neiberlein made four foul shots in the final 15 seconds to clinch the victory.