Senior Joe Wassel, playing his final game at Smith Center, scored 27 points last night to lead George Washington University to a 71-56 Atlantic 10 victory over visiting St. Bonaventure.

Wassel, who scored 17 first-half points, but took only one shot from the field in the second half, made eight straight free throws in the closing five minutes.

The Colonials were held without a field goal for a six-minute span that ended with Steve Frick's basket with 16 seconds left, but in that period, they made 10 of 12 free throws and never allowed the Bonnies to come closer than six points.

The victory was an important one for George Washington, which had lost five of its last six. It kept the Colonials (13-12 overall, 8-8 in the league) from slipping below .500 for the first time this season and brought them closer to drawing a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament. The first six teams get a first-round bye, and George Washington is now tied for fourth place with Rutgers and Massachusetts.

St. Bonaventure's hopes of a first-round bye virtually evaporated last night as it fell to 11-14, 5-11. The Bonnies, who have lost five of their last six, are in jeopardy of suffering their first losing season since 1955-56.

The game was tied at 30 at halftime, but the Colonials, who shot 40 percent from the field in the first half, shot 62 percent in the second half.

"I thought the difference in the second half was our shot selection," said George Washington Coach Gerry Gimelstob. "In the first half, we were rushing some shots, but in the second half, we had enough patience to get the ball inside to who we wanted."

The Colonials worked the ball in to Wassel and to 6-foot-9 center Mike Brown, who had 10 of his 14 points after intermission. Brown also had 15 rebounds.

Another key for the Colonials was the help from reserves Frick (six points, seven rebounds) and Brian Butler (six points).

The Bonnies, who were led by Elmer Anderson's 17 points, never found their shooting touch. They shot only 38 percent from the field, including 33 percent in the second half.

"We had some inside opportunities, we just never managed to put the ball in the basket," said Bonnies' Coach Jim O'Brien.