Sonni Holland aggravated an ankle injury in practice Friday. Playing in pain last night, Holland matched a career high with 26 points -- including the game-winning basket -- as George Washington pulled out a 61-59 Atlantic 10 victory over Massachusetts at Smith Center.
In beating the Minutemen here for the 13th straight time, the Colonials did not lead after the sixth minute until Holland followed Rodney Patterson's miss for a 59-57 advantage with 24 seconds left. Patterson's two free throws clinched it before Rafer Giles scored for Massachusetts at the buzzer.
It was not a pretty game. Holland, a 6-7 sophomore, hit 10 of 16 field-goal tries. The only other players who were 50 percent or better were George Washington's Byron Hopkins (one for one) and Massachusetts's John Tate (three for four).
"There was a little question whether I'd play," Holland said. "The doctor said I could play, pain permitting, and it was playable pain. It just hurts when I step off my left foot."
The Minutemen played superb defense in the first half, building a 28-20 lead while blocking six shots and forcing nine turnovers. But they were shooting poorly and the fouls started to pile up on them. With eight minutes left in the game, Massachusetts had two players with four fouls and four with three.
Despite some backing off by the visitors in those circumstances, George Washington needed to make four of its last five shots to finish at 36.7 percent, with 20 for 55. Its free-throw figures were horrible too, only 21 of 36.
Nevertheless, Colonials Coach Mike Jarvis insisted, "There is no such thing as an ugly win. This was a gutty victory. The defense was intense and very solid on both sides."
Massachusetts has not won here since 1977 and Coach John Calipari said, "I don't know what it is about this building, but we don't seem to play well here and I always go away mad."
George Washington boosted its record to 10-7, 4-5 in the Atlantic 10. Massachusetts fell to 11-6, 6-4. The Minutemen had beaten the Colonials at Amherst in December, but Calipari said, "This was not an upset tonight. My team is not as good as everybody thinks and this is a good team, GW."
George Washington held early 7-2 and 9-5 leads before a nine-point run sent the Minutemen ahead. The visitors stayed there until two baskets by Holland pulled GW even at 47. Holland missed a free throw with a chance to snap the tie and Massachusetts reeled off six straight points to once again open some daylight.
An offensive rebound by William Herndon with 2:28 left gave the Minutemen a 57-53 advantage, but they did not score again until the buzzer was sounding.
Ellis McKennie cut the deficit to two with a baseline jumper, then picked off an Anton Brown pass and fed Dirkk Surles for the fast-break basket that tied it with 1:28 left.
Herndon charged into McKennie on the Minutemen's next possession. At the other end, Patterson missed a driving layup, but Holland was there for the follow that put the Colonials in front.
When Minuteman John Tate lost the ball on a drive, Patterson grabbed it and was fouled. His two free throws with nine seconds on the clock assured the victory.
GW played without freshman point guard Alvin Pearsall, who has an inflamed knee.