George Washington finally showed the poise expected of a team starting four seniors, playing excellent defense and making 13 of 17 free throws in the last six minutes to scratch out a 77-67 win over Massachusetts last night in an Atlantic 10 basketball game before 1,341 at Smith Center.
The Colonials, whose season has been marked by confusing slumps and narrow losses, limited the Minutemen to two field goals over the last 4:54 to raise their record to 7-11, 2-7 in the Atlantic 10. Massachusetts, which had beaten GW earlier this season in Amherst, Mass., fell to 6-12, 3-6.
"That was a great win for us," said Colonials Coach John Kuester, whose team won only the second game in its last 10. "It was exciting for me because the kids did some nice things -- kept their poise, hit their free throws, got some key rebounds. . . . It doesn't take a genius to see that we don't have great size or great ability, but the kids are willing to work together."
GW was led by senior center Steve Frick, who, despite severe back spasms that repeatedly sent him to the bench, finished with 18 points and six rebounds. Frick, who made four of his seven field goals on jumpers from the 20-foot range, also believed the win was a sign of things to come.
"We needed it so bad," he said. "This team has come so close so many times this year, but we hadn't gotten over the hump before. Tonight we played with real intensity and it made a difference."
Troy Webster added 14 points for GW, and Chester Wood and Mike O'Reilly finished with 12 each.
The inside play of Frick, senior forward Craig Helms (three points and two rebounds in the last two minutes) and freshman forward Brian Royal helped the Colonials to a 37-26 edge in rebounds, a rare commodity for a team with no regular taller than 6 feet 6. GW, which shot 54 percent from the field, got 28 of its points on inside moves.
"We did a good job of posting up," said Kuester, whose team made 59 percent of its shots in the first half. "You can't rely totally on the jump shot, and I think we were very patient."
"We were a step and a half behind all night on defense," said Massachusetts Coach Ron Gerlufsen. "We didn't take away any of the inside flashes or the post plays, and GW got a lot of uncontested shots."
The Minutemen had 20 points from guard Lorenzo Sutton, the third-leading scorer in the conference, but bruised ribs incurred on an inbounds play forced the 6-2 sophomore to sit out almost seven minutes of the second half in obvious pain.
"That was a great loss," said Gerlufsen. "When he's not out there, it takes away our only real threat."
Sutton, who scored 26 points in Massachusett's 78-72 win over GW earlier this season, left the game with 14:06 left to play and his team behind by five points, 48-43. But the Colonials could make only three of eight shots in his absence, and they clung to a 57-50 lead when Sutton re-entered the game with 7:37 left.
The injury forced Sutton to alter his shot, however, and he made only one of his next six attempts. GW came to life, forcing the ball inside and making 10 trips to the foul line in the last seven minutes.
The Colonials led by seven points en route to a 34-30 halftime lead, thanks to Frick's 10 points and Massachusetts' reluctance to look to anybody but Sutton for offense. Sutton finished with 12 points in the half, but no other Minuteman had more than four. Mont.-Rockville 92, Mont.-Germantown 67
Lorenzo Gill had 22 points and 10 rebounds -- both game-highs -- and Tracy Martin had 19 points and 11 assists to lead the Knights (9-6) to victory in Rockville. Jim Andrakakos of the Gryphons (3-14) had 24 points.