This was a basketball game George Washington University could have and should have won.
West Virginia had lost two players on fouls and had another on the bench with four while trying to protect a three-point lead at the 7:50 mark. Inspired by a home crowd of 4,611 and the antics of "The Chicken" mascot, the Colonials were in position to snap the visitors' eight-game winning streak and break their own six-game losing streak.
But they went nearly four minutes without a point while West Virginia did everything right to claim a tough 67-58 Atlantic 10 Conference victory at Smith Center.
"We got in position to make our breaks but didn't finish," said Coach John Kuester, whose team fell to 7-9 overall and 1-6 in the conference. "We were prepared for them and did everything we felt we could do. When they were in foul trouble, we just didn't get the ball inside. We didn't penetrate, missed some shots and had those two big turnovers."
After West Virginia forward Chris Brooks (13 points) fouled out, joining teammate Desmond Clifton, who also had fouled out, and forward Tyrone Shaw on the bench, George Washington's Mike Jones (13 points, eight rebounds) made a free throw to pull his team to 51-49 with 7:50 left.
Mountaineers forward, former Dunbar all-Met Darryl Prue (11 points, 13 rebounds), scored off back-to-back offensive rebounds but GW was still within 55-53 after Joe Dooley's 16-footer with 4:30 left.
"Rebounding and inside play is our strength and, when Chris and Ty went out, I had to assert myself," said Prue, who had six points and four rebounds in the last six minutes. "I'm the veteran and I wanted to get every ball that came off the board. Besides, I like playing here at home."
"Darryl was doing the job," said Shaw, a former T.C. Williams All-Met who had 10 points. "Plus our guards did a good job handling the pressure and hit some key free throws."
When George Washington needed key plays, it couldn't make them. It failed to scored on its next six possessions, losing the ball twice on turnovers.
Mountaineers guard Herbie Brooks, who had 12 points and was the fifth starter to finish with double figures, made a running bank shot and two foul shots to give the visitors (13-4, 8-0) a 59-53 lead with 3:04 to play.
Prue got a rebound after the Colonials missed twice. He got inside for another basket and West Virginia led by eight with two minutes left. After another miss by the Colonials, Brooks made two more free throws, and the lead was 10 with 1:25 to play. Game over.
"We played well when we had to," said West Virginia Coach Gale Catlett. "GW was pumped and came after us. It was a big crowd and the Chicken was there and they were really prepared for us. But when crunch time came, our guys came through."
George Washington led briefly at 8-5 before the Mountaineers ran off a 15-9 spurt to go ahead for good. If Brooks, who had three dunks, Prue or Shaw didn't score inside, Brooks or Steve Berger (17 points, seven assists) scored from outside.
Three-point plays by Berger and Shaw enabled the conference co-leaders to take eight-point leads three times midway in the first half. But Gerald Jackson made a three-pointer, Jones had two free throws, Max Blank a turnaround jumper in the lane and Joe Dooley a basket at the buzzer as the Colonials trailed at the half, 37-32. George Washington, getting solid play from Ellis McKennie (11 points) and Jones, stayed close throughout the second half while Catlett shuffled his foul-prone back line. And just when things looked as if they would go in favor of the hosts, Prue and Brooks took over the game.