Troy Webster scored on a layup with 10 seconds left and Mike Brown blocked a shot by Jay Samonsky with two seconds remaining as George Washington surprised American, 70-69, in overtime last night before 4,300 at Smith Center.
"I don't mind playing a close game, I want the ball at the end," Webster said. "I'm at my best at the end."
GW (4-2) got a second wind when the Eagles missed the front ends of one-and-one foul situations three times in the final 1:28 and Dave Hobel made a three-point play to tie the game at 60 with 14 seconds to play. AU's Gordon Austin missed a 22-footer with one second left and the game went into overtime.
American (4-2), coming off its finest victory -- a 62-61 decision over fifth-ranked Georgetown Wednesday night -- eased ahead in the extra five-minute session, 69-68, on a bank shot by Austin with 14 seconds to play. The Eagles then tried to get into the half-court zone press that has been a very effective defensive maneuver for them the past few seasons. But Webster, who was listed as questionable because of a groin pull, took the ball and started up court before AU was set up.
"We blew an assignment," said AU's Mark Nickens, who scored 21 of his 25 points in the second. "After we scored, we were supposed to be in our press. But he (Webster) blew right past us down the middle."
Webster (11 points) dribbled the length of the court, went right to the basket and dropped the ball over the front rim and GW was ahead in the see-saw game, 70-69.
Following an Eagle timeout, Austin, who missed a 20-footer with one second left in regulation, brought the ball up looking for Nickens. Webster denied Nickens the ball and the pass went instead to Samonsky, who was open along the base line on the left side. The seldom-used sophomore from De Matha went up for a 14-footer, but Brown leaped high and blocked the shot as the buzzer sounded.
"He came from nowhere," said Samonsky. "I was looking at the rim and I didn't see him. He made a good play."
Brown, who played the entire game and finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, said the play was "instinct." "I wasn't going to let him shoot it," said Brown. "It's about time I played a good game. I needed that."
Even though Brown was having a good night, the Eagles should have won the game in regulation. They got four points from Nickens and a pair of free throws by Juan Jones to take a 60-55 advantage with 2:43 left.
A long jump shot by another member of the Colonials' walking wounded, guard Mike O'Reilly (bruised thigh), cut the deficit to 60-57 with 2:10 to play. But the Eagles were still in control.
GW fouled Nickens, an 80 percent free throw shooter, but the senior missed the front end of the one-and-one situation with 1:28 left. GW failed to score on its next possession and fouled again. This time, Austin missed the front end with 46 seconds to play. Another GW miss was followed by another foul. This time, Jones missed with 22 seconds left.
"We got a five-point lead, the momentum and we put three seniors on the line in pressure situations," said AU Coach Ed Tapscott, "and they couldn't knock them (one and ones) down. Maybe it was overconfidence."
GW led early, but couldn't handle AU's pressure and trailed, 33-30, at the half. But Austin picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first three minutes of the second half and went to the bench.
Without their point guard, the Eagles' offense slowed and Troy Webster, Darryl Webster, Brown and reserve Chester Wood started scoring inside as the hosts eventually earned a 51-43 lead with nine minutes remaining. But Darryl Webster and Wood fouled out. Austin also returned and AU quickly settled down and got back in the game.
Nickens scored 13 of his team's 17 points over a six-minute span to help his team take what appeared to be a safe 60-55 lead.
"It just seemed like we weren't getting any breaks at all shooting the ball," said GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob. "And then Nickens, an 80 percent shooter went to the line. Thank heavens, we got him to shoot in the other 20 percent."