WASHINGTON — For the second time in a month George Washington gave a Top 25 team all it could handle at the Smith Center before falling short.
Three weeks after losing by three points to then-No. 14 Butler, the Colonials led No. 18 Saint Louis by three points in the second half before fading down the stretch in a 66-58 loss Saturday.
Dwayne Evans finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Kwamain Mitchell added 18 points as Saint Louis won its 11th straight game.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Saint Louis (23-5, 12-2 Atlantic 10) holds a one-game lead over Virginia Commonwealth (23-6, 11-3), which routed No. 20 Butler 84-52 on Saturday.
Reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week Kevin Larsen led George Washington with 14 points. Lasan Kromah scored 12 and Dwayne Smith added 10. The Colonials (12-15, 6-8) have lost three straight and five of six.
George Washington led by three with just over 7 minutes left when the Billikens put together a 10-0 run. Evans hit two free throws and then converted a layup when Mitchell’s 3-point attempts came up short. Rob Loe, Evans and Mitchell all made two free throws on consecutive possessions to put Saint Louis up 55-48 with 4:20 left.
“Up three with 7 minutes left, three timeouts left, I thought we were in great shape, but we definitely had some costly turnovers, and we had trouble getting to the line and we had trouble scoring,” George Washington coach Mike Lonergan said.
The Colonials got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
“We were trying to play physical. We had 44 points in the paint,” Lonergan said. “We either missed some easy shots or, I don’t know, our guys felt they were getting fouled and we just didn’t get calls.”
The Colonials entered Saturday’s game in a four-way tie for ninth place in the Atlantic 10 standings with Charlotte, Saint Joseph’s and Saint Bonaventure, a game ahead of 13th-place Dayton.
The top 12 teams in the final 16-team league standings qualify for the 2013 A-10 Championship March 14-17.
“This time of the season there’s no time for moral victories,” Kromah said. “We have to get some wins underneath our belt.”
Up by eight points and with the ball early in the second half, Saint Louis committed turnovers on seven of its next nine possessions against George Washington’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
“They’re a very physical team,” Billikens interim coach Jim Crews said of the Colonials. “They really attack you in so many different ways. I’m very pleased with our guys. We kept hanging in there.”
The Colonials went on a 14-5 run and took its first lead of the game, 42-41, on a dunk by Nemanja Mikic off a steal by Kromah.
“We let their pressure get to us,” Evans said. “Guys kept making quick decisions and that doesn’t bode well for us. When we got back to playing our pace, playing team ball, we started playing how we’re used to playing.”
Saint Louis finished 21 of 24 from the free throw line while the Colonials made just eight of 15 free throws.
“I thought we did a good job getting inside. We’ve got to do a better job finishing those plays,” Lonergan said. “We obviously got to do a better job making free throws. And then we were trying not to foul, and I thought there were some touch fouls that put them at the line.”
The Billikens shot 41.7 percent from the field (20 of 48) to 41.4 percent for George Washington (24 of 58) and outrebounded the Colonials 34-32.
The 11-game run is the Billikens’ longest winning streak since they won 14 straight to start 1993-94.
The Billikens twice built eight-point leads in the first half, but went cold from the field as George Washington rallied.
The Colonials had a chance to tie it after Larsen was fouled while converting a layup with 4:15 left, but he missed the free throw.
After the teams traded baskets St. Louis went on a 7-1 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer from the corner by Rob, and took a 32-26 lead into halftime.
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