MIAMI (AP) -- Playing just its third game in 18 days, George Washington (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) 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. That shot also woke up George Washington. The Colonials finished
the first half on a 12-4 run, pulling even at 34-34 on a J.R.
Pinnick's layup. "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."