George Washington shook off a dreadful start and used an 18-3 second-half run to break open a close game and defeat visiting St. Joseph's, 84-74, giving Coach Mike Jarvis his first victory at the school.
The victory, before 2,132 at Smith Center, was even more important because it came in an unusual Atlantic 10 game in November. But Jarvis said the circumstances were irrelevant.
"If we got the first win in Russia while they were dropping bombs it would be great," said Jarvis, who lost his first game Saturday to Loyola in Baltimore.
The Colonials were led by Dirkk Surles and J.J. Hudock, who scored 20 points each. Freshman guard Bernard Blunt led the Hawks with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
The Hawks led, 58-57, with 9:24 left, when Surles started the 18-3 run with a 12-footer and a three-pointer.
"I missed two or three shots before that, and they were coming closer," Surles said. "I figured somebody had to do something. That's why I took the shots."
A short jumper by Ellis McKennie and two free throws by Alvin Pearsall, sandwiched around a free throw by the Hawks' Marlon Miller, gave the Colonials a 66-59 lead. Hudock then hit a three-pointer to give George Washington the game's first double-digit lead. After Blunt made a pair of free throws, the Colonials ran off six straight points for 75-61.
"The only way you can have an 18-3 run is by playing defense," Jarvis said. "We played the best defense of the game during that 18-3 run and that's why we won."
St. Joseph's also features a first-year coach in John Griffin, and last night's game marked his debut.
"I would like to have had an easier opponent in my first game," Griffin said. "A league game away is a difficult challenge even if it's in the middle of the season. It was obvious we weren't ready to play this level of basketball."
Early on, it appeared that level would be pretty low. GW missed its first nine shots and committed four turnovers in as many minutes, but trailed only 10-2 because of some miscues by its opponent.
The Colonials fought back slowly, and Glen Sitney's three-pointer gave them an 18-16 lead. They would never again trail by more than two.
GW opened its lead to five by the half, but St. Joseph's rallied to 44-44 on Craig Amos's 18-footer with 15:59 left. A three-point play by Surles reopened the lead to 57-52, but a 6-0 run capped by Blunt's layin put the Hawks up, 58-57.
Griffin said one of the Hawks' problems was that Blunt -- who took 27 shots and made nine -- was forced to take on too much of the offensive load. "I don't think there was anybody else who became an offensive threat," he said.
For the second straight game, Jarvis used an array of lineups, substituting 35 times in 40 minutes. Nine players saw more than 10 minutes of action.
The oddity was that McKennie, thought by many to be the team's best player, got only 16 minutes.
"I don't think time has anything to do with productivity," Jarvis said. "It's the quality of the time. I would like to see Ellis McKennie and the seniors here do what they've never done before: have a winning season. I would hope the seniors would trade extra minutes for extra wins."