George Washington rode Sonni Holland's career-best 28 points to a huge lead last night, then weathered a furious West Virginia comeback before emerging with a 97-87 victory in front of 3,148 at Smith Center.
Forwards Holland and Glen Sitney provided the spark for the Colonials, who improved to 11-7 overall, 5-5 in the Atlantic 10. Holland, dominant in the first half, made all 12 of his free throws. Sitney lifted the offense with 15 points off the bench.
The Mountaineers, led by Mike Boyd's 21 points, dropped to 10-7, 6-3. Six nights ago, West Virginia defeated George Washington, 84-80, in Morgantown.
"We didn't want to win this game by single digits," Colonials Coach Mike Jarvis said. "To win by double figures against this very talented team is a great accomplishment."
West Virginia, trailing by 24 midway through the second half, switched to a full-court pressure defense with about five minutes remaining. The Mountaineers scored 12 consecutive points -- most on fast breaks -- cutting the deficit to eight.
A more patient and less panicking Colonials offense and solid free throw shooting in the final minutes secured the exhausting victory for George Washington.
"I'd still be nervous if we were up by 20 with two minutes left," Jarvis said. "Did I think at any time that we'd lose? No way. Someone would find a way to pull it out."
Holland, who entered tied for the team's scoring lead with guard Dirkk Surles, scored eight of the Colonials' first 12 points. But it was West Virginia that jumped to the early advantage, thanks to several misses on seemingly routine shots by George Washington, as well as a strong Mountaineers inside game led by Chris Brooks (14 points).
Sitney, though, provided a much-needed spark when he replaced starter Mark Karver about six minutes in and promptly hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 15.
When Sitney next appeared, with West Virginia up 20-19, he and Holland started controlling the inside. After Sitney tipped in a Holland miss, Holland followed with two strong baseline layups to give the Colonials a 25-20 lead. They didn't trail again.
Holland scored 18 in the first half. "I'm getting a lot more shots and they're falling," he said. "The guards are getting me the ball."
"He's our go-to guy right now," Jarvis added.
Jarvis provided sparks of his own when he was assessed a technical foul after questioning a reach-in violation on Peter Young. Leonard hit the pair of free throws to cut the GW lead to four, but the argument ignited both the team and the increasingly raucous crowd as the Colonials quickly upped their lead to 14 in the first half.
Catholic 71, Mary Washington 61: The Cardinals picked up their sixth straight win with the Capital Athletic Conference victory. Jay Jackson had a career-high 25 points and seven rebounds to lead Catholic (9-10, 4-2 CAC). Jay Franklin scored 18. For Mary Washington (5-12, 2-3), Steve Posey had 18 points and eight rebounds. Bernhard Johnson added 12 points.
Capitol College 66, Washington Bible 52: Keith Alvarez scored 22 points and Chris Dixon 17 to lead the Laurel school in Lanham, Md. Capitol improved to 8-10. Washington Bible was led by Joel Fletcher (15 points).