George Washington Coach John Kuester said it was extremely important for his players to shoot well if they expected to defeat heavily favored Temple. They didn't shoot well, and they didn't win.
The cold-shooting, tentative Colonials shot a nightmarish 21 percent in the game's first 25 minutes and were easily eliminated by Temple, 73-54, in an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament quarterfinal game tonight at McGonigle Hall.
Temple (24-4), which has won 22 straight games and 60 of its last 61 contests here, will play West Virginia in a semifinal game Saturday at Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands at 7.
The Colonials, under first-year coach Kuester, finished 12-16.
The Owls, who defeated George Washington twice during the regular season, were in control from the opening tipoff. Using a tight, quick-reacting sagging zone defense, the Owls demonstrated to the partisan crowd of 2,721 why they are ranked among the top 10 defensive teams in the nation.
The Colonials got few uncontested jump shots and usually came out losers when they dared challenge Temple's inside twosome of 6-foot-10 Ramon Rivas and 6-9 Tim Perry.
Perry, in particular, was an early thorn in George Washington's side. After Howard Evans (16 points) and Ed Coe (11) hit early jump shots to give the Owls a 4-0 lead, Perry, second in the nation in blocked shots, swatted away three George Washington tries in one series. That turn of events seemed to set the tone of the game as the Colonials managed only seven field goals in the first half and one in the first five minutes of the second half.
Luckily for the Colonials, Temple was not enjoying one of its better efforts or they would have been down by 20 points instead of just seven, 25-18.
"You know you're not going to win many games when you shoot 23 percent in a half," Kuester said. "I thought our shot selection was fair, but we needed better penetration. We shot 56 percent the last time we played here George Washington lost, 70-64 and if we had shot that well, we probably would have won the game."
That's debatable. But a better shooting effort and fewer turnovers would certainly have given the Colonials at least a fighting chance. George Washington's top scorer, Troy Webster, made only two for 10 from the field and Chester Wood one for eight in the first 20 minutes. Webster finished with 12 and Wood seven. Steve Frick led George Washington with 15 points.
"They have a good perimeter shooting team but they abandoned that and kept trying to punch the ball inside," Temple Coach John Chaney said. "I thought we played good defense inside but I'm getting tired of players splitting our people and penetrating. Blocking shots is an emergency operation and we can't always depend on Timmy to be there."
Perry finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots but his presence left an early impression on George Washington. He left the game after picking up two fouls seven minutes into the game but Temple's sure-handed three-guard alignment of Coe, Evans and Nate Blackwell (16 points, nine assists) sank enough 16- to 20-footers to keep the Owls well ahead.
George Washington shot much better in the second half (16 of 25). But Perry began scoring inside on jump-hooks and Blackwell had all 16 of his points as Temple steadily built its lead. Two straight baskets by Perry gave Temple a 34-20 advantage with 15 minutes to play.
Despite George Washington's hustle and accuracy from the outside, Temple's lead stretched to 52-36 when Coe leaped over a George Washington defender for a left-handed power dunk with seven minutes to play in the game. The Colonials' season came to a slow end as Temple showed why it is also one of the better free throw shooting teams in the nation, converting 90 percent of its attempts in the final five minutes. Catholic 63, Mary Washington 60
Rob McCarry scored 18 points, Bob Burns had 12 and Charles Thompson 11 to lead the Cardinals (18-8) in the first round of the ECAC South Division III playoffs last night at Catholic.
Buddy Hawley led the Blue Tide (17-11) with 25 points. The Cardinals will play Frostburg State in the next playoff game.