For George Washington, this is a familiar script. A name team comes to Smith Center and the Colonials play them right to the wire. The upset, the kind that people notice the next morning, is there for the taking.

And then it happens -- again. Last night, they led South Carolina by seven points with six minutes left. They led by three -- with the ball -- and less than 90 seconds to play. But when it was over, after a Keystone Kops finish, the Gamecocks had escaped with an 81-77 victory before 2,732, and all GW could do was wonder how another one had gotten away.

This time two critical turnovers turned a 76-73 George Washington lead into a 77-76 South Carolina lead in 15 agonizing seconds and the Colonials (1-1) never got even again.

"We had some slippage mentally at the end," Coach John Kuester said. "The kids played a heck of a first half and showed the kind of defense we can play. But this is the kind of game we're going to have to play every night to have any success."

Kuester's team got 18 points from Joe Dooley, 16 from Ellis McKennie and 14 from Max Blank. It forced 21 South Carolina turnovers -- but made 24 of its own. The Gamecocks (2-0) got 20 points from Terry Dozier, 14 from Darryl Martin and 13 -- most of them crucial -- from freshman Brent Price, the younger brother of former Georgia Tech star Mark Price.

Until the last 90 seconds, GW looked like it had a major victory in sight. Even though they had blown an 11-point lead, the Colonials were up by 76-73 after a rainbow by Dooley with 1:58 left. When Price missed at the other end and GW rebounded with 1:25 to go, it was the home team's game to lose.

First, Dooley and McKennie crossed up each other on an exchange 30 feet from the basket. "I thought he was going to throw it ahead to me and he didn't," Dooley said. "It was both our faults, but more mine. I probably should have come back to the ball in that situation."

Said McKennie: "We did get mixed up. But it was my turnover. I threw the ball away, not Joe."

Regardless of blame, that play gave the Gamecocks the ball and they quickly cut the margin to 76-75 with 1:05 left on Martin's layup. Kuester called time seven seconds later to make sure his team stayed cool with 40 seconds on the shot clock. But the Colonials never got a chance to use any of that time.

Jackson inbounded at midcourt. He tried to slip the ball in the backcourt to McKennie. Price raced in, deflected the ball and outhustled McKennie for it in the corner. He fed it back to Martin in the key and his shot rolled in with 50 seconds to play to put South Carolina up, 77-76.

"All we were trying to do on that play was play hard man-to-man defense," Price said. "I wasn't thinking about going for the steal, but he {Jackson} probably threw a bad pass. I was able to get my hand on it and then I just hustled after it. I guess he {McKennie} thought I didn't have a chance to get it. I was surprised he didn't go harder for the ball."

McKennie took the blame for the turnover. "I have to give it to him {Price}," he said. "He just outhustled me."

GW had chances after that lapse, but couldn't convert. Dooley's 10-footer rimmed out with 25 seconds left and Price, fouled immediately, made both free throws to make it 79-76. Kenny Barer was fouled with six seconds to play and -- in a moment that summed the ending up well -- missed the first when he was trying to make it and made the second when he was trying to miss.

"This team will win some of these before the season's over," Dooley said. "But I thought we had this one. It's tough to take."