George Washington Coach Gerry Gimelstob was within 11 1/2 minutes of winning at Reilly Center for the second straight year.
His Colonials led St. Bonaventure, 55-42, in the matchbox-sized gym, where the Bonnies have a 203-30 overall record. But GW, which won here last year on Dave Hobel's shot at the buzzer, scored just six points in the final 11:49 and lost, 65-61, in an Atlantic 10 Conference game.
"St. Bonaventure changed up and came out in a man-to-man (defense)," Gimelstob said. "Their quickness really bothered us and we didn't adjust well to the change."
The Bonnies (8-3, 2-0 in the conference), opting for a lineup that gave them only one player taller than 6 feet 5, scored 15 straight points to take a 57-55 lead with 3:51 remaining. An alley-oop pass to 6-8 junior Barry Mungar tied the score for the Bonnies, and two free throws by 6-5 senior Rob Samuels, who finished with a career-high 21 points, gave St. Bonaventure the lead.
George Washington (7-4, 2-1) took a 58-57 lead on Joe Wassel's three-point field goal and held a 60-59 advantage on Mike Brown's only field goal of the second half.
The Colonials finished with eight baskets from outside the 19-foot three-point line used by the Atlantic 10, but got only one after the Bonnies went to the man-to-man defense.
"I don't think the three-point shot was a factor," Gimelstob said. "If the shot's there we take it. It's only 19 feet."
Brown, GW's 6-10 senior center, has been slowed by an injured foot. He was called for three traveling violations during the 8:13 stretch that the Colonials were held scoreless.
"I thought it was a hell of an effort," Gimelstob said of Brown, who scored 12 points in the first half. "He has the same foot injury that kept (Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) Jack Lambert out of the NFL for the season."
Guard Alvin Lott, the conference rookie-of-the-year last season, made a three-point play to give St. Bonaventure a two-point lead with 1:10 remaining. After GW's Troy Webster threw away the inbounds pass, Elmer Anderson made two free throws to wrap up the Bonnies' fifth victory in six games.
"We were able to substitute down (regarding height) because they really don't have a true power forward," St. Bonaventure Coach Jim O'Brien said.
"More than anything else, the difference was the man-to-man defense," he said. "Our kids played it very aggressively. In the first half we decided to play a lot of zone and not get into foul trouble, then play more aggressively in the second half.
George Washington led at halftime, 35-33, thanks to five three-point field goals, three by Wassel.
Neither team led by more than three in the first 20 minutes. There were nine ties and six lead changes in the first half.
The game was tied at 40 when the Colonials went on a 15-2 spurt that gave them their 13-point lead, then O'Brien shifted to the man-to-man defense.