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March 10, 2007
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -Carl Elliott scored 17 points to help George Washington to a 78-69 victory Saturday over Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament championship that gave the Colonials their third consecutive NCAA bid.
Will Daniels scored a career-high 29 points for Rhode Island (19-14), which was appearing in its first tournament final since 1999. Jimmy Baron and Kahiem Seawright, who scored 17 points each in the Rams' 79-71 upset of top seed Xavier Friday night, were held to 10 and eight, respectively.
For the third straight game, George Washington won with a relentless pressure defense that on Saturday produced 21 turnovers against the Rams. In wins against Saint Joseph's and Saint Louis, the Colonials forced a total of 41 turnovers.
George Washington led by eight at halftime and by 11 midway through the second half but couldn't shake the Rams, particularly Daniels, who was the only Rhode Island player to score in the half's first seven minutes.
Daniels' dunk off a steal and a jumper by Keith Cothran cut the Colonials' lead to 66-62 with 2:55 left, but Akingbade scored in the lane and Rice sank two free throws to extend the lead to eight points. George Washington made 10 free throws in the final 1:38.
As in its quarterfinal and semifinal wins, George Washington's pressure defense took Rhode Island out of any rhythm it tried to establish early in the game. The Rams turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, leading to 19 points for the Colonials.
Three of the turnovers came in the final two minutes after the Rams had closed the gap to 40-36, and allowed George Washington to take a 44-36 lead into the intermission.
The Colonials made six of their first eight shots and raced to a 14-4 lead, but Rhode Island pushed back behind Daniels, who was held to nine points in Friday's win over Xavier after scoring 21 the night before against Fordham. The last of his 12 first-half points gave the Rams their biggest lead at 31-28 with 7:16 left.
The Colonials responded with 12 straight points to take a 40-31 lead.
Rice, who led George Washington in scoring in its tournament wins over Saint Joseph's and Saint Louis, had a quiet first half with five points on 2-for-10 shooting. His teammates made up for it by containing Baron: he took six shots and made just one, a 3-pointer for Rhode Island's first points of the game.