With his team down double-digits to Saint Louis Wednesday and having just thrown the ball away heading into a timeout, GW men's basketball head coach Karl Hobbs thought it was time for a bit of perspective.
"Guys, we need to relax. We're playing like we have the world on our shoulders right now," Hobbs said he told his players. "I told them, 'The worst thing that can happen tonight is that we can lose a basketball game.' "
"Everybody just took a deep breath and was like, now we can play basketball," sophomore Tony Taylor said, audibly exhaling mid-statement.
Suddenly the Colonials, perhaps fueled by Hobbs' psychology lesson, began chipping away at the Billikens' lead, battling back from a 13-point deficit to snap their four-game losing streak with a dramatic 67-62 overtime win.
The game began with an offensively-challenged first half, with GW (12-7, 2-4 Atlantic 10) shooting just under 23 percent from the floor and managing to put only 18 points on the board.
The pace picked up after the break, but not necessarily in the Colonials' favor. Saint Louis combated GW's trapping defensive pressure by working the ball around until it found the hands of an undefended player, the result of Hobbs' attempt to facilitate a quicker tempo.
The early returns of such a strategy did not bode well for victory, as the Billikens' ability to knock down open shots gave them a double-digit lead with less than 10 minutes left in a game where points had been harder than usual to come by.
"Sometimes you're gonna give up an open three. You may give up a layup, but the intent is to get them to shoot that ball and not take the entire shot clock," Hobbs said. "We needed to speed up that pace. We needed to make them shoot shots quicker and hopefully that last three or four minutes, the legs are a little tired, the shots start falling a little short."
Such expectations began to prove true as Saint Louis cooled off, making just one basket in a five-minute stretch during which GW scored 10 points to bring the game within six.
With the game having been tied by trio of unanswered layups from freshman Dwayne Smith, junior Joseph Katuka and Taylor, Saint Louis took its final lead on a put-back dunk with 38 seconds on the clock.
Smith, who matched career highs with 13 points and seven rebounds, took what would have been the go-ahead three-pointer on the next possession, but the shot fell short. Freshman Lasan Kromah grabbed the miss under the basket and put it up and in to tie the game with 20 seconds left.
"Everybody was looking towards the rim like it was gonna hit it," Kromah said. "I knew it was coming short, so I just took advantage of the opportunity."
After Taylor stopped the Billikens' Kwamain Mitchell from scoring on the other end, the game headed to overtime. The Colonials continued riding their momentum from the end of regulation, with Kromah scoring five points to take GW from down one to up three and Smith sealing the game with a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds.
"We felt very confident and that was all we needed to get over the hump," said Taylor, who led GW with 18 points. "Everybody made a decision that we were gonna play harder and harder and harder and we were gonna fight until we got the win."
Though the Colonials got the monkey off of their backs with respect to their previous four-game losing streak, there is no time to celebrate in the A-10. Next, GW will travel to Rhode Island, which beat Dayton to snap its 30-game home winning streak Tuesday, before traveling to play a Charlotte team that upset No. 15 Temple Wednesday.
"It is what it is," Hobbs said. "This is what we signed up for and we're just gonna be excited and we're gonna enjoy this journey and we're gonna see where it leads at the end."
Saturday's tip-off at Rhode Island is scheduled for 1 p.m.