WASHINGTON - Mount St. Mary's three-game tour of college basketball arenas in the nation's capital began with the Mountaineers tied into the final minutes before losing at American. The Mount then gave Big East power Georgetown a tougher-than-expected time, trailing by only six points with eight minutes to play.
Progress had been made, but no wins had been gained.
That changed Monday night when the Mount forced 25 turnovers, got big 3-pointers late from Sam Prescott and Julian Norfleet, and upset the Atlantic 10's George Washington Colonials 65-56.
"It wasn't perfect, it wasn't beautiful, but on the road it rarely is, and you've got to find a way to get a victory," first-year coach Jamion Christian said after notching his first road win.
Prescott led the Mount with 15 points and Norfleet had 12 as the Mountaineers (2-3) registered just their second non-conference road win in their last 25 tries.
There was extra incentive for this one.
"Coach told us they called us a couple times - they really wanted to play us," Norfleet said. "We took it as a disrespectful type of thing and we really wanted to get this one, really bad."
Christian used whatever was necessary to motivate his players.
"We really built that up," he said. "In college basketball, you've got to earn respect. This is just one step in that direction. We've got a long way to go, but the guys really rallied around the opportunity to come in here and earn some respect."
The Colonials (2-3) lost despite shooting 51.1 percent from the field, outscoring the Mount 42-20 in the paint and outrebounding MSM 32-24.
But GW went 8-for-17 from the foul line and committed those 25 turnovers, unable to handle the "mayhem" the Mount tries to create by pressing and trapping all over the floor.
"Long story short, their pressure won the game for them," said GW center Isaiah Armwood, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Added GW coach Mike Lonergan: "The stat sheet tonight really speaks for itself."
Using the same defense that forced Georgetown into 11 first-half turnovers on Saturday, the Mountaineers forced GW into nine turnovers in 10 possessions over a span of 5:36 of the first half to turn an 11-8 deficit into a 20-13 advantage. George Washington then went on a 12-0 run as the Mount had similar problems keeping hold of the ball.
The Colonials still led 28-24 when MSM freshman Shivaughn Wiggings (11 points) buried a 3-pointer with 2:07 remaining and then a Rashad Whack steal led to a Wiggins layup that put the Mount back on top. Prescott swished a 3-pointer from the left wing to give MSM a 32-28 halftime lead.
A courtside spectator implored the Colonials to "Protect the ball!" as they took the court for the second half, probably about the same message Lonergan had for them at halftime. It didn't help, although the Colonials did begin the half on a 10-2 run.
"We took the punch they gave us and then we punched back," said Prescott.
Indeed, a 9-2 run followed, capped by a Whack 3-pointer that put the Mount ahead to stay. Still, there were key shots to be made.
George Washington had pulled to within 55-54 when Prescott nailed a 3-pointer to re-establish a four-point lead with 3:51 left. It was his first field goal of the second half after scoring 11 first-half points.
"We've just got a ton of confidence," Prescott said. "We all work hard. When those shots come, we're not shy."
Still missing free throws and committing turnovers, GW struggled to stay in the game. A layup by Lasan Kromah (18 points) pulled the Colonials within 61-56 with 1:10 to play. They then played 34 seconds of excellent defense when Norfleet received a pass about 30 feet from the basket with the shot clock about to expire. He buried the 3-pointer to seal the win.
"Sam drove, he drew my defender off of him, and I knew the shot clock was going down," Norfleet said. "I just tried to focus on shooting it like a regular shot and it went in."
And after the near-miss at American, and a solid showing at Georgetown, the Mountaineers had their D.C. win.
"At American, we played probably 30 or 35 good minutes. Georgetown, we played 32 really good minutes, and had people checking the score, doing a double-take," Christian said. "Tonight we were able to put together 40 good minutes of toughness.
"Obviously, it's really exciting for our team."