A wild celebration followed an emotional game last night, with No. 24 Maryland rallying to tie the score before a surprising hero emerged for George Washington. Junior point guard Bernard Barrow, a junior college transfer who had struggled in his first few weeks, made a three-pointer with 1 minute 1 second left to give the Colonials a 74-69 victory in the BB&T Classic title game before 13,703 at MCI Center.
"Our team feeds off me," Barrow said, still basking in the victory on the court as the Colonials' band played. "When I play hard, they play hard. I was sluggish [in Saturday's semifinal win over Seton Hall], didn't play at all. I told the guys I'd step up. I had confidence. The team had confidence and we got the job done."
No. 16 Illinois beat Seton Hall, 72-61, in the consolation game.
After Barrow's shot, Colonials freshman guard SirValiant Brown stole a pass and made two free throws with 44 seconds left to secure the victory. Brown finished with 27 points on 6-of-16 shooting and was named the most valuable player of the two-day tournament.
Although he had eight turnovers, for much of the game Brown played with more poise than he had in George Washington's first six games. It was the first time he took fewer than 21 shots in a game, and he avoided many of the wild shots that had lowered his shooting percentage to .336 entering the game.
The victory enabled the Colonials (4-3) to go above .500 for the first time this season, less than a week after a blowout loss at Ohio University.
"We had a rough week," Brown said. "We had hard practices all week long and we were coming off some devastating losses over the holidays. It was a big win for us."
For Maryland, the loss ended a three-game winning streak and was the first time this season the Terrapins (6-2) took a step backward. Maryland had beaten Illinois, 69-67, in the semifinals.
"I thought George Washington really outworked us," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "You could tell in the loose ball situations and the way we turned the ball over early."
Maryland finished with 28 turnovers and was unable to overcome a subpar performance from preseason all-American forward Terence Morris. The Terrapins failed to get Morris involved in the first half and he had two points on a pair of free throws at halftime as Maryland fell behind, 39-34. Morris set season lows for points in a half and shots as he was 0 for 2 from the field.
"We know we should have won the game," Morris said. "They wanted it more. We have to learn from this one and use it as a learning stage, get mad and be ready for our next game."
Morris started to assert himself in the second half, but was called for three offensive fouls in the first 11 minutes and went to the bench with four fouls. He returned to help Maryland rally from a seven-point deficit, but just after his steal and three-point play brought the Terrapins to 66-65 with 1:52 left, he fouled out on the inbounds play when he was called for fouling Barrow.
Barrow made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 67-65 and then Maryland pulled even at 67 on a bank shot by forward Danny Miller. But the Terrapins' late run was throttled by Barrow, who tied his season high with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and made both of the three-pointers he attempted. It was quite a rebound for Barrow, who had played just 16 minutes against Seton Hall because he was ineffective.
"He came up big for us," Brown said. "He never put his head down when he was struggling. . . . He hit a big shot; a big-time shot."
Morris finished with 12 points, 6 blocks, 5 rebounds and 5 turnovers. Maryland was led by sophomore center Lonny Baxter, who had 21 points and nine rebounds. Guard Juan Dixon had 15 points and seven rebounds, but both he and freshman point guard Steve Blake had seven turnovers.
"I thought [Barrow] played very good defense on our point guard," Williams said. "And he made a big shot. . . . He gave them everything they wanted from their point guard."