LORETTO, Pa. (AP) -- George Washington waited six years to return to the Top 25 and wasn't about to let its national ranking slip away.
The Colonials (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) closed the first half on a 20-2 run to take control in a 79-65 victory over St. Francis, Pa., on Saturday night.
George Washington (6-1) was playing for the first time since knocking off ranked opponents Michigan State and Maryland on consecutive days last week. The Colonials are in the Top 25 for the first time since 1998.
"It's been pretty good," center Pops Mensah-Bonsu said. "It's a nice little buzz around campus."
St. Francis (4-3), led by Jason Osborne's season-high 24 points, used hot shooting from the perimeter to build a 27-23 lead with 8:14 left in the first half. Soon after, George Washington ran off eight straight points, with Ricky Lucas' steal and dunk putting the Colonials ahead 30-29 with 6:33 left.
Colonials coach Karl Hobbs could be heard screaming at his players to increase their intensity during the game's decisive stretch.
"Out of all the games we've played this year, this team seemed to be the most prepared for us," Hobbs said. "They seemed to have scouted us very, very well."
The Red Flash were within 34-31 but failed to score over the final 5:18 of the half. Hall sank a half-court shot at the buzzer to put George Washington up 46-31 at the break.
St. Francis hung around by scoring the first eight points of the second half to close within 46-39.
"We feel like we gave it all we've got against a top 20 team," said Osborne, who made 12-of-16 shots.
Hobbs said Osborne "was just fantastic tonight. He single-handedly kept them in the game."
George Washington turned to its pressure defense to regain the momentum and surged to another key run. Thompson's 3-pointer stretched the Colonials' lead to 49-39, and Pinnock's three-point play the next trip down padded the margin to 13. The Red Flash drew no closer than 10 points thereafter.
"Coach Hobbs kept us focused and made sure that we concentrated going on the road against a tough team," Mensah-Bonsu said.
The game marked the first time St. Francis hosted a ranked opponent since Pittsburgh came in at No. 13 on Dec. 1, 1990.
The Red Flash lost for the first time this season at home, where they went 10-1 a year ago.
"A little bit disappointed with the loss," St. Francis coach Bobby Jones said. "But certainly I'm really pleased with the effort we put out against a very, very good basketball team. ... That team could go deep in the postseason tournament."
Only one Northeast Conference team has ever beaten a top 25 opponent. Mount St. Mary's, then coached by Jim Phelan, toppled No. 21 Georgia Tech in 1995.
Colonials freshman guard Maureece Rice scored the first points of his college career. Rice broke Wilt Chamberlain's Philadelphia high school scoring record last year.
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