Although the three-point shot was shelved for tonight's nonconference game, Virginia produced a four-point play that finally buried scrappy George Washington.
The Colonials had pulled within three points with 7 1/2 minutes left. Then Virginia's Ricky Carlisle hit a turnaround jumper from the lane at the same time teammate Jim Miller was pushed by Craig Helms. Miller sank both free throws for a 42-35 lead and the Cavaliers went on to win, 59-44.
"We were playing the No. 4 team in the country with four freshmen and a sophomore, and we have a realistic chance to win with just a few minutes to play; I couldn't be prouder of these kids," said GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob.
The Colonials (8-8) led only once, at 20-18 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half. Then they went sour and it was not until the four-minute mark of the second half that they scored another point. Virginia (16-2), meanwhile, scored 10 straight and seemed ready to put it away.
Instead, GW battled back and, aided by two Ralph Sampson misses, was able to score five in a row and renew the hope of its handful of partisans in sold-out University Hall.
"Neither team shot very well and I think for the most part we were getting excellent shots," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "We were even missing layups. But give GW credit. They never let us pull away."
The Colonials might have pulled away themselves if they could have hit any kind of a reasonable percentage in the first half. Instead, they made only 10 of 30 field goal tries and were unable to take full advantage of 11 Virginia turnovers.
"Down by four at the half when we only shot 33 percent, we knew we had a chance," said Mike Brown, the only sophomore in an otherwise all-freshman GW starting lineup, as Helms replaced senior Dan Sullivan for this one.
Brown led the Colonials with 13 points and nine rebounds, and he had the thrill of scoring a couple of baskets over Ralph Sampson, who is seven inches taller at 7-feet-4. But, as usual, it was Sampson who eventually made the difference.
The big guy connected on six dunks and one of six other shots to lead both teams with 16 points and 16 rebounds. He blocked four shots and his intimidating presence affected GW's shooting.
"Ralph got some good shots," Holland said with a smile.
In the first half, the Cavaliers made only one shot from more than three feet from the basket. That was a base line jumper by Carlisle to tie the score at 20-20, moments after Brown, guarded far out by Sampson, was able to hit Troy Webster with a pass for an unopposed layup.
"Ralph only came out a couple of times and we weren't able to make many plays off the high post, the way we usually do," Brown said.
Virginia also was affected by the limited play of guard Othell Wilson, who managed only six points after an asthma attack earlier in the day.
If the four GW freshmen were largely unsuccessful in their efforts to escape Virginia's man-to-man pressure, a fifth turned in a good effort off the bench. The game was 6 1/2 minutes old and GW, with only two field goals despite no slowdown tactics by either team, was trailing, 9-4, when Chester Wood was called into action.
The freshman forward out of Carroll High fed Brown for a dunk, then scored three baskets himself as GW pulled within a point at 15-14.
"Wood did a nice job," Gimelstob said. "I thought most of our freshmen played real well. If we have another good recruiting year and these kids develop, we'll be a top 20 team. We're looking forward to playing Virginia next year at the Smith Center."