Saturday, Nov. 28
In the midst of all the hoopla surrounding President Obama and his family attending Saturday's men's basketball game against Oregon State, it would be easy to attribute GW's more-than-shaky start to a case of star-struck jitters. The Colonials did, after all, turn the ball over three of the first four times they touched it, missing two free throws on the lone exception en route to a 14-0 deficit through five-plus minutes of play.
But sometimes a basketball game is, at its core, a basketball game, and sometimes an opposing team's size and athleticism can be just as irksome as the prospect of playing in front of the man running the country.
Such was the assessment suggested by head coach Karl Hobbs after his team's 64-57 loss that began with a steep deficit the Colonials' threatened but could not manage to overcome.
"I'm not sure how much impact [Obama's attendance] had," Hobbs said after the game, before adding with a laugh, "I think their defense had more impact than the president in the stands."
GW (4-1) struggled mightily to put points in the board in the first half, coughing the ball up 11 times in the game's first 14 minutes and having only 13 points on the board with four minutes left before halftime. After their disadvantage ballooned to 16 points as the final minute of the half neared, freshman Lasan Kromah connected on a pair of three-pointers that sent GW into halftime trailing by 10.
The Beavers maintained roughly the same lead throughout most of the second half, with the Colonials essentially treading water and trading baskets with their visitors.
Then, down 11 with just over a minute left, the Colonials threatened to seize the game. Senior Damian Hollis scored on a put-back off of an offensive rebound and freshman Bryan Bynes added two more quick points after GW forced a turnover. Sophomore Tony Taylor got a steal off of the inbound pass and scored while being fouled to cut Oregon State's lead to five points with 38 seconds remaining.
Taylor missed the ensuing free throw, but the Colonials corralled the rebound and Kromah hit another three five seconds later to make it a 59-57 game.
"We never felt like we were out of the game and that's how we played," Hobbs said. "We were one or two plays away from getting ourselves back in it."
That two-point margin would be the closest the Colonials would come, however, as Oregon State's Seth Tarver made two foul shots on the other end followed by a Kromah miss. A few more Beaver free throws and a missed three-pointer from Hollis later, Oregon State walked away with a seven-point victory.
Kromah led GW with 15 points in the game, with Hollis and sophomore Aaron Ware adding 13 and eight, respectively. Senior Hermann Opoku had a team-high six rebounds and Kromah added five.
Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson, the older brother of first lady Michelle Obama, said he was glad his previously 1-3 team could pick up a much-needed win to cap a road trip that included a trip to the White House to meet the president Friday.
"From a cultural and academic standpoint this was a wonderful trip for the guys - and still would have been disappointing if we hadn't won the game because they're basketball players," Robinson said. "They were thoroughly impressed with what they experienced, but it was really important to win the game to make the entire trip a treat."
Robinson said that while there had been a great deal of speculation as to whether his powerful relatives would attend the game, he waited until it was officially known to tell his team in order to give them a heads up.
"You don't want that surprise when you're walking in the gym, when you're walking in for practice or shoot-around and the advance team is in there with dogs and wands and all that kind of stuff," he said. "You wanna sort of prepare them for that."
When asked if his sister is as big of a basketball fan as the president, Robinson said, "She is more into heckling the coach."
Hobbs said that the Beavers' visit, the first-ever by a Pac-10 team to Smith Center, was a meaningful one for GW and his players.
"I think it means a great deal, particularly having Oregon State, having the president at the game," he said. "I think it helps us in so many ways, even outside of basketball. Not many universities have that opportunity."
The Colonials' season continues Wednesday at home against George Mason, with the start scheduled for 7 p.m.