George Washington University ensured its first winning season in seven years last night, using a quick and suffocating man-to-man defense to defeat Duquesne, 68-62, at Smith Center.

The Colonials boosted their record to 15-8 with four regular season games and the Atlantic 10 tournament remaining. They also moved into fourth place in the conference with a 9-6 mark.

The last time George Washington had a winning record (17-12 in 1983-84) also was the season it placed third in the Atlantic 10, its lone upper-division finish in 14 years.

The Dukes (9-13, 7-7) exhibited more talk than talent, with two technical fouls throwing them off their game at key points.

Appropriately, the man who broke it open for the Colonials was Rodney Patterson, whose eight points in a two-minute stretch of the second half helped turn a 30-29 margin into a 46-34 gap that proved too much for the Dukes to close.

Patterson was a member of the George Washington team that struggled to a 1-27 record two years ago, so he appreciated the turnabout more than most.

"It feels great to be a winner," Patterson said. "We have a great coach {Mike Jarvis}, we're playing as a team and when guys get hurt, other guys come in and do the job. We didn't play well tonight, but we did enough good things to win anyway. Now we want more."

This was the game forecast in a national preseason magazine as the "ugly game of the year" in the Atlantic 10 and afterward few in the crowd of 2,148 would have disputed that.

Duquesne missed its first eight shots but held a 13-12 lead when a six-point possession thrust the Colonials into the lead. As Byron Hopkins tapped in a rebound for George Washington, Dukes Coach John Carroll was assessed a technical foul. Ellis McKennie made both free throws and added a jump shot for an 18-13 margin before Duquesne touched the ball again.

Neither team scored in the last 3:59 of the half, until Duquesne's Mark Gilbert made one of two free throws after the buzzer to close the deficit to 26-20.

For the half, Duquesne made eight of 32 shots from the floor and four of 12 from the free throw line. Hopkins was an intimidating presence, with five blocks.

The Dukes pulled to 30-29 early in the second half, before running into more technical problems. Effrem Whitehead, charged with a foul against Patterson, objected verbally and was assessed a technical foul.

Patterson missed both free throws on the foul, McKennie made one of two on the technical shots and Sonni Holland failed to score on the ensuing possession.

But the Dukes had lost the momentum that brought them back. They did not score for more than five minutes and went without a basket for almost six, by which time the Colonials had a 44-31 lead.