Dec. 23, 2004
MIAMI (AP) - Playing just its third game in 18 days, No. 20 George Washington looked sluggish early against Florida International on Thursday night. T.J. Thompson came up with the big second half for the Colonials.
Thompson scored 20 of his 25 points after halftime and George Washington won its eighth straight, 81-71 over the Golden Panthers.
During the winning streak's first seven games, George Washington (8-1) outscored its opponents by an average of 17 points and posted wins over ranked teams Michigan State and Maryland, but FIU hung tight with the Colonials.
"I expected this," George Washington coach Karl Hobbs said. "I told my team to expect to grind it out for 40 minutes. I thought we were very fortunate."
Asked if the limited work over the past three weeks affected the Colonials, Hobbs said, "It showed."
Hosting its first ranked team since 1997, FIU took advantage of Colonials' sluggishness and opened an early lead. Julius Eppinger's jumper with 3:36 remaining in the first half gave the Golden Panthers (5-5) their largest lead of the game, 30-22.
"We know since we got ranked, people are going to come at us with their `A' game," Thompson said.
George Washington took control of the game with a 10-1 run that made it 44-35 less than 3 minutes into the second half.
FIU cut into that lead throughout the half, but Thompson answered each comeback attempt with one of his six 3-pointers.
"T.J. single-handedly kept us in the game tonight," Hobbs said.
After the Golden Panthers cut the lead to four with 16:12 remaining, Thompson hit 3s on consecutive possessions.
FIU again had the lead down to 61-54 with just over 7 minutes remaining when Thompson hit another 3. George Washington increased the lead to 17 points with 4:31 remaining.
FIU played most of the game without leading scorer Junior Matias, who is averaging 16 points. He left the game in the first half with tightness in his back.
"When one of our warriors go down, other people have to step up," FIU coach Sergio Rouco said. "We had to put some kids in there that shouldn't be in there."