Joe Dooley said he was hoping, but Coach John Kuester said he was sure.

Dooley proved his coach right by making the first of two free throws for a 63-63 tie with 25 seconds left in regulation and Mike O'Reilly hit six free throws in overtime as George Washington defeated Rhode Island, 79-71, last night in an Atlantic 10 basketball game before 1,040 at Smith Center.

"I knew Joe Dooley would make at least one," Kuester said. "One of the reasons we lost at Rhode Island (77-63, Jan. 6) was because we didn't make the free throws. It boils downs to making free throws because if you do that, you put yourself in a position to win."

The Colonials, who were 23 of 27 from the line, are 8-11 overall after their second straight victory and 3-7 in the Atlantic 10. Rhode Island fell to 6-13 and 2-8.

The Colonials' Chester Wood had 17 points, including the four prior to Dooley's free throw and GW's first two in overtime.

"Chester Wood, to me, looking at his body (6 feet 5, 225 pounds) . . . the furthest thing that comes to mind is him being a basketball player," said Kuester. "He has so much court savvy and so much heart. He's a poor man's Adrian Dantley."

O'Reilly had eight points of his 12 points in overtime. Brian Butler finished with 11 and Steve Frick 10. Freshman John Evans had a game-high 27 points for the Rams.

GW was down, 63-58, with 1:23 to go in regulation. With 1:16 left, Wood hit both ends of a one-and-one to cut it to 63-60. With 59 seconds left, Rhode Island's Tom Garrick threw a beautiful pass to someone at the scorer's table, giving GW the ball. With 45 seconds left, Wood swished a 10-foot, high-arching jumper from in the lane.

After Kuester's timeout with 44 seconds left, Wood and Troy Webster swiped the ball from Carlton Owens. Webster passed to Dooley, who was intentionally fouled as he was driving.

Rhode Island took two timeouts.

"I was just hoping to get up there and knock 'em down," Dooley said. "We had all the situations planned in the timeout. I would have liked to end it right there, but it was nice to see us show some character in OT."

GW carried its momentum into overtime. After Bryan Mitchell hit two free throws for Rhode Island, Wood hit a jumper for a 65-65 tie. Craig Helms' tip-in of his own miss gave GW a 67-65 lead with 3:04 remaining, and the Colonials never trailed after that.

Neither team was especially brilliant in the early part of the second half. But Rhode Island was a bit less lethargic. After neither team scored in the first 2:38, Rhode Island took the lead by outscoring GW by 8-2. Bonzie Colson, a freshman who played at Dunbar High in the District, hit two in a row and Evans scored on an alley-oop dunk for a 41-40 lead with 14:15 to go.

The first half was rough and ragged, not to mention a bit helter-skelter. GW had 13 turnovers and 11 fouls, while Rhode Island had 11 turnovers and 13 fouls.

The Rams led for much of the first 10 minutes. Evans scored eight of the Rams' first 14 points and finished the half with 17.

Bryan Mitchell scored for Rhode Island, giving them a 14-12 lead with 10:58 left. But then the Colonials got hot, outscoring Rhode Island by 10-2 over the next 2 1/2 minutes. Except for about 28 seconds, the Colonials led the rest of the first half, which ended 38-33.