The George Washington basketball team discovered tonight the pitfalls of starting four freshmen against a team that plays vigorously and intelligently.

Bob Dukiet, the coach at St. Peter's, developed his philosophy of basketball offense while serving as an assistant coach at Princeton under Pete Carril. Carril's teams bedevil more talented opponents with patience and precision cuts off a high-post offense that eventually result in layups.

It didn't take long for St. Peter's tonight. The final score was 68-47, St. Peter's, although GW was within two points early in the second half. That was before the Colonials made offensive and defensive mistakes in the next 5 1/2 minutes that the Peacocks exploited for a 41-29 lead.

"If you lose your man at any time, you're in deep trouble," said Steve Frick, who became the fifth freshman on the floor for GW when center Mike Brown was assessed his third foul in the middle of the first half.

"One time I got totally lost," he said, "and my man just ran me off a pick and scored. But I guess that comes with experience, playing time."

But GW's players have little time to develop, since Coach Gerry Gimelstob is committed to playing freshmen. Tonight he benched junior guard Dave Hobel and started freshman Mike O'Reilly in his place.

Freshmen got 149 of 200 minutes playing time tonight.

"We're going to have to go home and work like hell," Gimelstob said. "We have to develop our team. It's not strategy. It's execution. It's not what you do; it's how you do it. The outcome of the game depends on the entire 40 minutes. That's where our inexperience shows up. We think we can catch up in 30 seconds."

For the third straight game, the Colonials shot less than 40 percent from the field. St. Peter's packed a 1-2-2 zone around the 6-foot-9 Brown, who played only 18 minutes and scored eight points.

The Colonials (1-2) have yet to find a consistent outside shooter, and until they do opponents are going to surround Brown, last season's Eastern Eight rookie of the year. St. Peter's was especially effective because its players have quick hands and 6-6 Tommy Best played the point of the zone, making it more difficult for GW's guards to see Brown.

"We're not a 38-percent shooting team," said Brown of GW's season percentage. "We're not patient on offense. We just shoot."

It appeared that GW had adjusted to the Peacocks' style, trailing only 29-27 in the first half. But in its next nine possessions, GW initially tried to force the ball to Brown, then shot too quickly from afar and committed three turnovers. GW made one of nine shots in that span.

At 34-29, after GW's second timeout in less than two minutes, Troy Webster lost Shelton Gibbs on a back-door cut and the St. Peter's forward converted it into a three-point play and a 37-29 lead. He finished with 22 points, high for the game.

In the second game at the Brendan Byrne Arena tonight, Kevin Black made four consecutive free throws in the last 11 seconds to help Rutgers (3-0) to a 71-65 victory over Jacksonville (2-1).