With a touch more than minute left in the GW men's basketball team's contest against Rhode Island Wednesday evening, many of the 2,598 in attendance began to exit Smith Center. But unlike at a lot of the Colonials' games this season, fans probably left happy.
The Colonials defeated the Rams 85-68, and the game was not even that close. For the first time since its win over the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in mid-December, GW picked up a truly dominant win This time it was against a team that has seen success this season.
"This is clearly the best we've played all year," coach Karl Hobbs said. "Maybe the best (we've shot) since I've been here as a coach. We've been looking for a night like this. We talked about it as a team."
Though Rhode Island has seen a rather rapid fall over the past few weeks - dropping five of its last six games - it is a team with a lot of talent. Hobbs called junior Jimmy Baron one of the best shooters in the Atlantic 10 and senior Will Daniels one of conference's best players. He said he knew they would make a run at some point and the goal was to not surrender threes or second-chance points.
Daniels finished the game with 24 points and Baron with 13, while teammate Parfait Bittee also added 13 points. The Rams (20-9, 6-8 A-10) did make a run in the second half - an 11-1 advantage midway through the second period - but it made only a small dent as GW led by 23 before the spurt began and quickly jumped back to an 18-point lead with just less than eight minutes to go.
The Colonials (9-14, 5-8 A-10), sporting their buff uniforms for the third time in as many games, never trailed, with sophomore Damian Hollis hitting a three just under two minutes into the game and never looking back.
The forward finished the game with a career-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. It was his third straight game lighting up the gym, as he has now averaged 18.3 points per game in the past three contests.
But the real star of the night was junior Noel Wilmore, who has been one of the program's question marks during his time at GW because of his inability to consistently add to the box score. This was the pure shooter's best game yet, leading GW with 24 points, including seven three-pointers.
In general, this team looked like they had been reinvented. Hobbs had spoken extensively in the middle of the season about how he cares most about his team's effort on the court. The energy was hard to ignore Wednesday night and was only perpetuated as shots kept falling and some dunks, a GW favorite, found their way through the hoop.
Just a couple weeks after their hopes of qualifying for the conference tournament were all but dead, the Colonials currently sit tied for 12th place in the A-10, three weeks away. They are within the cut for the tournament because of their ownership of the tiebreak over Dayton.
GW has three games left to play. First on the slate is a trip to Cincinnati to face No. 9/11 (AP, ESPN/USA Today) Xavier Saturday evening.
Hobbs said Xavier is "really good" at home.
He said, "For us, we have to go into that game with the mindset that we're going to execute and play our style. They're going to have to beat us. We're a different team on the road and we're playing against the best. We have our work cut out for us."