George Washington, which made only five of 17 free throws in the first half, failed to convert three of its four attempts from the line in the final 45 seconds and lost to St. Bonaventure, 88-86, last night in an Atlantic 10 game before 2,286 at the Smith Center.

The loss was the Colonials' seventh straight, matching their worst losing streak since the 1980-81 season, as they fell to 5-10, 0-6 in the Atlantic 10.

St. Bonaventure, which has won seven games by two points or less, is 11-6, 6-2.

After leading by as many as five points with 6:30 to play, the Colonials trailed by three, 82-79, when Craig Helms was fouled with 45 seconds to play. But Helms, a 71 percent free throw shooter, missed both shots.

After a jumper by George Washington's Kenny Barer and three free throws by the Bonnies' Doug Turner, Joe Dooley could have pulled the Colonials to within a basket when he was fouled with 26 seconds left and the score 85-81. But Dooley made only the second shot.

Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure made 73 percent (28 of 38) of its free throws, including six of eight in the last 41 seconds, to seal the win.

"There was no excuse for us to lose that game," said George Washington Coach John Kuester, who had hoped to take advantage of his team's five-game homestand to climb back into the conference race.

"I thought we were a pretty fair free-throw shooting team. But you don't deserve to win any game where you make just five free throws in the first half."

Although foul trouble limited St. Bonaventure forward Barry Mungar, the Atlantic 10's third-leading scorer, to only 18 minutes and eight points, Darren Quinlan filled in impressively with a career-high 23. Guards Elmer Anderson and Turner had 21 and 15 points, respectively.

Chester Wood (21 points) and Troy Webster (19) scored at will for George Washington, but the Colonials proved unable to extend, let alone hold, several leads late in the game. Three-point advantages vanished three times in the final 13:13, and a 69-62 lead with 9:29 to play was cut to 69-68 less than one minute later.

"We didn't play a stitch of defense," said Kuester. "We've got to start stopping people and become a more scrappy team. We won't win this way."

To its credit, George Washington did rally from a 46-41 halftime deficit to take the lead, 49-48, on a steal and layup by Webster with 17:52 to play.

"But whenever GW had a lead, they just seemed to turn right around and throw it away," said Bonnies Coach Jim O'Brien. "We were lucky tonight." UDC 71, Virginia State 68

Freshman forward Richard McLean, a graduate of Largo High School, scored a season-high 15 points and had five assists to lead the University of the District of Columbia to a non-conference victory at its Physical Activities Center.

UDC improved to 9-7. Virginia State, which dropped to 9-8, was led by Alfred Cantrell's 23 points and 10 rebounds.

McLean had nine of his points in the first half to help the Firebirds take a 38-36 lead, scoring mostly on short jumpers and driving layups. Lyndon DeBellotte kept the Trojans at bay with eight of his 14 points in the second half.

The game was not decided until the final seconds of regulation, when UDC's Bryan Tucker got a rebound of Lamont Walker's missed jumper and threw a court-length pass to guard Fred Sanford. Then Sanford made a layup at the buzzer to secure the victory.