COLUMBUS, Ga. - Bowie State men's coach Luke D' Alessio often refers to senior post player Tim Washington as "the best player in Division II basketball."
After one round of the NCAA South Atlantic regional tournament here, few are likely to argue.
The Bowie pep band danced, two dozen yellow-clad fans chanted, and Washington did whatever he pleased yesterday as the Bulldogs built a big lead early, then hung on at Columbus State University for an 88-82 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne, of Hickory, N.C.
The Bulldogs (27-4), seeded second in the tournament and ranked 10th nationally, moved to tonight's semifinals against Georgia's third-seeded Kennesaw State (25-9), which defeated Virginia Union, 74-65.
Washington scored a career-high 39 points - nearly twice his season average - and grabbed 14 rebounds for his 14th double double of the season.
"Coach D' Alessio told me before the game that Lenoir-Rhyne plays a lot of man-to-man and doesn't double-team," Washington said. "That got me psyched. When I got the ball and they were playing me one-on-one, I just did what I've been doing all year."
Bowie State led 39-36 with 2:57 remaining in the first half. But Washington, who had already showed signs of dominance, then outscored the Bears 13-4 by himself to give the Bulldogs a 52-40 halftime advantage.
Washington finished a near-perfect first half, scoring 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field. And when he wasn't bullying his way to high-percentage shots beneath the basket, he was forcing his way to the free-throw line, where he hit seven of nine attempts in the half.
Washington didn't miss a beat after intermission, eclipsing the 30-point mark with a reverse layup at 14:39 and rolling past his previous career high of 33 with a fall-away jumper less than two minutes later. His efforts helped Bowie State lead by as many as 15 points early in the second half.
But, with just over seven minutes left, Washington began to misfire with a fall-away jumper that had been automatic. And Lenoir Rhyne began chipping away.
The Bears used a 10-2 run to take their only lead at 82-81 with 3:28 left to play. But Bowie State scored the final seven points.
Bulldogs point guard Cornelius McMurray complemented Washington's high-octane output with 21 points and five assists. Stephen Moss-Kelley added 12 points for Bowie State and Jon Smith had 11.
Freshman guard Marcus Springs led Lenoir-Rhyne with 21 points and five rebounds.
"Lenoir Rhyne is a lot like us - they've got a lot of heart," D' Alessio said. "I knew they were going to come back. And we made it easier for them by missing some shots that we normally make. But like we've done all year, we finished the game strong down the stretch."
LENOIR-RHYNE-Davis 8-20 2-4 18, Pitts 3-6 2-2 8, Mauldin 3-5 1-2 8, Connelly 6-122-2 17, Springs 8-12 2-5 21, Reid 2-3 2-2 6, Orr 0-1 2-2 2, Crews 0-00-0 0, Yelverton 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 31-60 13-19 82. BOWIE STATE-Washington 14-19 11-16 39, Moss-Kelley 5-10 0-0 12, J. Smith 4-9 3-411, McMurray 6-10 5-5 21, O. Smith 1-6 0-0 3, Norden 0-1 0-0 0, Hampton1-4 0-2 2, Lewis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-59 19-27 88. Half: Bowie State, 52-40. 3-point goals: Lenoir-Rhyne7-12 (Mauldin 1-2, Connelly 3-5, Springs 3-5), Bowie State 7-18(Moss-Kelley 2-5, McMurray 4-8, O. Smith 1-5). Fouled out: Pitts. Rebounds: Lenoir-Rhyne 28 (Davis 6), Bowie State 36 (Washington 14). Assists: Lenoir-Rhyne 10(Springs 4), Bowie State 14 (McMurray 5). Total fouls: Lenoir-Rhyne 21, Bowie State 15. A: 204.