The George Washington men's basketball team had been suffering through its worst Atlantic 10 Conference start since the 1989-90 season. That is, until last night, when the Colonials held on to beat St. Bonaventure, 75-72, before a Smith Center crowd of 3,345.
Behind freshman guard SirValiant Brown (29 points), the Colonials (7-11, 1-4) ended their three-game losing streak and won for the second time in the last eight games. St. Bonaventure (12-4, 4-2), which came into the game second behind Temple in the East Division standings, has dropped two in a row.
"Inside, I feel like cutting the nets down because it feels like we haven't won in a month," George Washington Coach Tom Penders said.
The Colonials played some of their strongest defense late in the game, holding the Bonnies to one field goal during a seven-minute stretch.
George Washington had not been blown out in any of its losses; rather, it had just let games slip away. Last night the Colonials made sure to do enough right things to win.
"Early in the year, we remember some of those games where we kind of gave way in the end," Penders said. "Maybe three or four where we didn't make our free throws, didn't take care of the ball and the other teams victimized us. [Last night], we didn't let that happen."
George Washington was more efficient and showed better ball movement than it had in the past.
"I was trying to be a little more patient with our offense," said Brown, who made 9 of 20 shots. "I was trying not to rush."
But most important, the Colonials' guards aggressively attacked St. Bonaventure's back court.
"They really took our guards," Bonnies Coach Jim Baron said. "I've never seen a team take our guards the way they took us. . . . They made the shots. They made big shots. They took it to our bodies and took it to the free throw line."
George Washington went to the free throw line 31 times, converting 22. Brown made 9 of 12 free throws. Freshman guard Chris Monroe and junior guard Mike King combined to make as many free throws (12) as the Bonnies did.
King had a career-high 11 rebounds. He also scored 12 points for his first double-double of the season.
Despite playing four guards most of the game, George Washington grabbed seven more rebounds and outrebounded an opponent for the first time since Dec. 11. "Which is unusual with four rug rats out there," Penders said.
Colonials sophomore forward Jason Smith continued his strong play, blocking three shots and making a key three-pointer to finish with eight points.
The Bonnies took a 20-12 lead but George Washington went on a 16-2 run, keyed by Brown's three-pointer--one of four by the Colonials during that run. By halftime, George Washington had built a 39-28 lead.
St. Bonaventure stormed back in the second half, using a 13-2 run capped by Tim Winn's three-pointer to cut the Colonials' lead to 46-44. However, Monroe answered with a layup to extend George Washington's lead to four points. The Colonials' defense then forced a turnover, and Brown was fouled attempting a three-pointer. He made all three free throws to put George Washington up, 51-44.
That lead didn't fluctuate much the rest of the way until Ernest Bremer's three-pointer at the buzzer for the Bonnies.