Overaggressive George Washington held St. Bonaventure without a field goal for the final 12:52 tonight, but the patient Bonnies made 26 free throws, 17 of them coming in the last five minutes, to earn a physical 77-67 victory in an Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinal game before 5,209 at the Civic Arena.
Greg Jones scored seven of his 28 points in the final 1:08 to lead West Virginia past Penn State, 82-72, in the first game of the doubleheader.
West Virginia (21-7) meets St. Bonaventure (20-8) in one semifinal game and tonight's winners in the Philadelphia quarterfinals, Temple (13-14) and Rutgers (22-6), play in the other semifinal Friday night at the Spectrum. Rutgers beat Massachusetts, 79-73, as Roy Hinson scored 31 points and Temple ousted St. Joseph's, 88-69, with Jim McLoughlin scoring 20 points.
Friday's winners play for the tournament title and the automatic berth to the NCAA Saturday at 1.
George Washington (14-15), which surprised a few folks with its 71-70 first-round victory over Duquesne here Monday night, fell behind by as many as 15 points, 46-31, early in the second half, before starting what would be a hard, physically draining rally. The Colonials, playing strictly man-to-man defense, limited the Bonnies to five field goals in the second half, but couldn't keep them off the foul line.
St. Bonaventure made 39 of 45 free throws. GW made 12 of 22.
"The game was one big free throw," said the Bonnies' coach, Jim O'Brien. "Every time we went across the lane, we'd get bumped, grabbed or held. That's why there were so many fouls (55, 34 against GW). I think subconsciously, the officials get to the point where they think, 'I can't call everything' when in fact they should be calling everything.
"It's not an easy game to officiate because the kids get tired of being grabbed . . . It wasn't a pretty thing."
Mike Brown, who finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, scored eight of his team's 10 points over a four-minute stretch as GW made its final run at the Bonnies. Two free throws by Brown cut the Bonnie lead to 60-58, with 6:33 left in the game.
The Bonnies, suddenly feeling the pressure, put up a bad shot and GW's Troy Webster pulled down the rebound. He was slammed to the floor by Rob Samuels and GW had a chance to tie the game for the first time since the early minutes of the first half.
Webster (16 points) made the first of the one-and-one bonus situation, but missed the second. Again the Bonnies missed and GW had an opportunity to go ahead. St. Bonaventure surrounded Brown in the lane and wide-open Mike O'Reilly missed a long jumper from the corner. "It was a good shot, one I'd take again," said O'Reilly. "I just missed it."
That was the last hurrah for the Colonials. The never-ending trek to the free throw line began. Norman Clarke, perfect on six tries, made two and the Bonnies' lead was three points with 4:50 left.
GW failed to score on its next three possessions and had no choice but to foul. Mike Sheehey, the chief target for the desperate Colonials, made five straight from the line and St. Bonaventure moved out to a 67-59 lead with 2:44 to play.
"When we got within a point, I felt we could win the game," said GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob. "But we didn't show any patience on offense and ended up fouling to get the ball. We didn't mean to foul. But when you foul that much, it indicates poor defense."