George Washington Coach Gerry Gimelstob rarely smiles during a basketball game. But after watching the Colonials hold Howard to one basket in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the second half, Gimelstob had to grin a little.

"This was by far the best defensive game we've played this year," said Gimelstob, obviously pleased by his team's 63-53 victory over the Bison at Smith Center last night in the first time meeting between the two Northwest Washington schools.

"Everyone was in the game defensively. We played great defense to open the game and great defense at the start of the second half," said Gimelstob.

"When you hold a team like Howard to four points in 10 minutes, you're playing good defense."

Playing a tight man-to-man defense for 40 minutes, GW (3-2) held the Bison starting front line to four points.

Chauncey Terry, David Wynn and Robert Jones managed six shots and only Terry, getting all four points at the start of the second half, scored.

Colonial freshman guard Troy Webster also held Bison guard Bernard Perry to 10 points on three-of-nine shooting from the field. Perry scored 27 points in Howard's upset of defending NIT champion Bradley last week.

"Our offense was horrible," said Bison Coach A.B. Williamson, whose team fell to 2-1.

"Our front line didn't do the job, offensively or defensively, and there will probably be some changes for our next game. We just played badly," said Williamson.

Webster, the game's top scorer with 15 points, had two long jumpers as the Colonials led, 9-2, with 5 1/2 minutes gone.

Howard used a collapsing zone to stop center Mike Brown but ignored Webster, Dave Hobel (11) and Mike O'Reilly (nine). The trio's outside shooting helped GW maintain a slim first-half lead before taking control in the second half.

Howard showed signs of waking up only once. Reserve forward Kevin Scott (12 points) scored six points late in the first half as Howard rallied to 22-20.

But the Bison (15 turnovers) made too many mistakes and the oportunistic hosts got points from four different players to take a 35-30 lead at intermission.

The second half was all GW. Terry's turnaround basket and a pair of free throws was all the offense Howard had in the crucial first part of the second half.

While GW was enjoying its final game before a 10-day break, the Bison missed 13 consecutive shots.

All of the Colonials contributed as the hosts' advantage increased to 10, 14 and finally 17 with 3:03 left.

"Their guards got a little frustrated because they couldn't score," said Brown, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. "Once we got ahead, we went to our delay game and that did it."

Hobel ran the delay game well and the Bison had little choice but to foul. The Colonials made 13 of 16 free throws down the stretch to ensure the victory.

"We wanted to bring them out on us, shoot only layups and free throws in the final minutes," said Hobel, involved in two brief near-scuffles in the final minutes.

"They had to foul us and we made the shots. It was a good, hard game, exactly the kind we needed to play."