It probably wasn't the way he wanted to find out, but George Washington Coach Mike Jarvis yesterday received convincing evidence of his team's depth. The Colonials overcame the absence of their two leading scorers to rout Virginia Tech, 88-70, before 3,112 at Smith Center.
Minus guard Dirkk Surles (sprained left ankle) and forward Sonni Holland (bone chip in left ankle), Jarvis got strong support from his spot starters and reserves to rebound from an early 10-point deficit.
"It was a surprise we won by as many as we won by," Jarvis said. "If you'd asked me before the game if we thought we could beat them, I would have said yes. But I would have told you it was a game we would have to win at the end."
George Washington (5-3) was led by senior guard Ellis McKennie, who replaced Surles in the starting lineup and responded with 19 points and nine rebounds, and center Byron Hopkins, who tied a school record with eight blocked shots and added 16 points and eight rebounds. Virginia Tech (4-2) was paced by Anthony Moses, who had 21 points and eight rebounds.
The win was especially satisfying for McKennie, who entered this season as the school's 12th all-time leading scorer but was relegated to backup duty because of the emergence of Surles.
"The nice thing was that this week, Ellis was not only physically healthy, but emotionally healthy," Jarvis said. "He had a great week in practice and he was ready for the opportunity that came. . . . It took a while for him to understand he could make a significant contribution without being a starter."
After seeing their early double-digit lead turn into a 10-point halftime deficit, the Hokies suffered through a 14-2 Colonials run to open the second half.
Hopkins and McKennie led the way, the latter giving the Colonials a 60-38 bulge by hitting a 12-footer with 13:32 to play.
In the opening minutes, the Hokies used their size advantage to control the game. Eric Wilson's follow of a missed free throw with 11:41 left in the first half gave them a 22-12 edge.
But that basket would be Virginia Tech's last field goal for 6:41, and after the Hokies' Dirk Williams made two free throws for a 26-18 lead, the Colonials ran off 11 straight points for a 29-26 advantage.
The lead was still three when the Colonials scored the final seven points of the half to open their first double-digit lead. Reserve Glen Sitney made a layup and a three-pointer, and Hopkins -- with time running down -- made a nice drive to the basket for an easy layin and a 46-36 lead.
"I can't tell you what a huge basket that was from a psychological standpoint," Jarvis said. "He won us the game with that move."