George Washington, trying to shake off the effects of a morale problem brought on by the suspension of two players and complaints against Coach Gerry Gimelstob, ran into a different type of problem tonight.
"It came down to us not making the plays at the end of the game," said GW guard Joe Wassel, reflecting on the 70-67 defeat at the hands of Penn State in an Atlantic 10 Conference game.
"But I thought we played well as a team. What's been in the papers lately had no effect on our play. We just didn't get the break at the end, but we shouldn't have been in that position from the beginning."
Most of the Colonials agreed with Wassel that the recent story regarding the one-game suspension of Troy Webster and Joe Dooley and charges that Gimelstob played favorites and showed no confidence in his players did not affect their play.
And the biggest play of the game involved Webster. GW trailed by five points, 68-63, before Wassel's followup shot and two free throws made it 68-67 with 54 seconds to play.
The Nittany Lions went to a spread offense to use up some time. They had to shoot before the 45-second clock ran out, so they were looking for the good shot or a foul. They got neither.
Penn State guard Dwight Gibson tried to drive past Mike Brown (22 points, seven rebounds), who reached down and stripped the ball with 15 seconds left.
"We wanted to take the first open shot," said Wassel. "Troy saw an opening down the lane and tried to go to the cup."
As Webster began his move, Gibson stepped in front of him and drew an offensive foul with three seconds to play.
GW quickly fouled Paul Murphy on the inbounds play and he sank two free throws to give Penn State a 70-67 lead.
Mike O'Reilly's half-court attempt was far off and the Nittany Lions had their sixth win in seven games here.
"I thought we played pretty well as a team," Gimelstob said. "We had a play set up and Troy was called for a charge. That was the ball game."
The Colonials (12-10, 7-6 in the conference), who led by as many as nine points at one time, had some problems on offense, particularly when Wassel (20 points) went to the bench with four personal fouls.
Craig Collins' outside shooting and timely inside field goals by Carl Chrabascz (15) and Bill Pollack (eight points) enabled the Nittany Lions to turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 59-50 lead with seven minutes to play.
In the first half, each time the visitors looked as if they were about to break away, Penn State would grab a loose ball and score. On one play, Ward lost the ball trying to dribble through his legs. After a scramble, Ward recovered the ball and, while sitting, threw a pass under the basket to Chrabascz, whose dunk tied the score at 30.
"We still have some games to play," said Brown. "That's more important than those other problems. We're still a team."