After it was over, after center Mike Brown had scored a career-high 40 points for George Washington, Rutgers Coach Tom Young had no trouble pinpointing why his team was a 96-77 loser last night.

"Very briefly," said Young, who has 491 career victories, "they played a great game, and Mike Brown played a great game. That's all there was to it."

Gerry Gimelstob, the winning coach, also had no trouble pinpointing why Brown could score so many points while still favoring a toe injury and why his Colonials had their largest margin of victory in this Atlantic 10 Conference rivalry:

"It's tough for your center to be productive for points, if your guards aren't playing well," he said.

George Washington's guards played very, very well last night, especially Joe Wassel (21 points) and Troy Webster (13 points, six assists, five rebounds in his best game of the season). And therein lies the reason Brown piled up 31 of his points in the second half, including 25 of his team's final 36.

The 40 points were a record for both the Smith Center and the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Colonials' four guards made 14 of 21 shots, including five of eight from three-point range. These included a pair of three-pointers by Wassel in the early going to get George Washington started and another pair in an 18-4 run late in the half, sending the Colonials off with a 44-29 lead at intermission.

For the game, George Washington shot 62.7 percent. In a 26-minute stretch during which they extended a 24-19 lead to 73-54, the Colonials made 28 of 37 attempts.

A week ago, Rutgers beat George Washington by seven points in Piscataway. In that game, guard John Battle, the conference's leading scorer, dominated the first half, and the Scarlet Knights scored half their points on fast breaks.

Last night, Wassel and Webster contained Battle well (21 points, nine in the first 24 minutes).

Young again was succinct in why his team was unable to run.

"How can you make any transition baskets when they make every damn shot they take?" he said. "That's the best way I know to stop a fast break."

For half a season, George Washington, a preseason favorite in the conference, had struggled because of injuries to key players, especially Brown, and the inconsistent play of other veteran players, including former starters Troy and Darryl Webster.

Last night's victory tied the Colonials (11-7, 6-4 in the Atlantic 10) with Rutgers (10-8, 6-4) and St. Joseph's for third place in the 10-team conference.

And the future appears brighter for George Washington, with Brown only about 75 percent recovered from the injury he suffered six weeks ago, and Troy Webster returning to the form that made him a starter for two seasons.

"Haven't participated in a full practice since Dec. 21," said Brown, soaking his toe in a whirlpool afterward. "I swim. I lift weights . . . I'm about 75 percent."

He wanted to talk more about Troy Webster, his former high school teammate in East Orange, N.J.

"It felt like it was back at Clifford Scott," Brown said. "The points, the assists, the rebounds, the defense on Battle. He's bigger than Battle; he's stronger than Battle."

For Webster, the 13 points were a season high, the first time he had been in double figures in a dozen games. He hit his first two shots last night and took it from there.

"I felt I had my confidence back," he said. "It's tough when you start your first two years. It's been a hard adjustment for me. I've handled it well so far. You can't look at it from a selfish point of view."