LEXINGTON, KY – Alexander Koul’s face was somber as he made his way to the bench for the final time.
The senior looked at the scoreboard. Five minutes remained in the GW men’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament first-round game against Oklahoma State University Mar. 13 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. and the Colonials trailed by 13 points.
Koul threw his towel down in frustration. He had scored only three points. Koul, like most of the Colonials, played one of his worst games of the season at the wrong time. The result was a season-ending 74-59 loss to the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State was quicker than GW all game. The Cowboys were quicker to the loose balls, quicker to rebounds and quicker on defense. Oklahoma State outrebounded the much bigger Colonials by a startling 48-29 margin, including 17 offensive rebounds.
“The name of the game is who gets to the ball quickest,” GW Coach Mike Jarvis said. “They got to the ball before we did. I hope it’s not because they wanted the ball more than us, but if I was looking at the stats and I was Oklahoma State, I would say that we outrebounded GW because we wanted the ball more.”
Guard Adrian Peterson continually sliced through the GW defense, scoring a game-high 23 points. Center Brett Robisch had 13 points and nine rebounds, Desmond Mason 13 points and 13 rebounds and Joe Adkins 14 points and seven rebounds.
“I had really impressed on our ball club that we were a lot quicker than they were,” said Oklahoma State Coach Eddie Sutton, whose team fell to Duke University in the second round of the tournament. “I felt we could beat them in transition, we could beat them off the dribble and we could beat them to the glass. We worked hard on defensive board play this week.”
“I felt that myself, Adkins and Mason, if we picked our spots, we had a great quickness advantage, especially with (Yegor) Mescheriakov and (Pat) Ngongba,” Peterson said.
GW entered the tournament after its best regular season in Jarvis’ eight-year tenure and a second-place finish at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. However, the Colonials were lifeless on offense and defense for most of Friday’s game.
GW (24-9) got 19 points and five three-pointers from Shawnta Rogers, but the junior point guard failed to distribute the ball, collecting only two assists. As a team, GW had only six assists. Mike King added 12 points, but the Colonials’ two guards could not carry the team by themselves.
GW was fortunate to trail the Cowboys by only 10 points at halftime. The Colonials made 28 percent of their shots in the first half and turned the ball over eight times. Oklahoma State scored 11 points off GW turnovers.
The Cowboys shot 62 percent in the first half and only their poor free throw shooting prevented them from holding a larger lead at halftime. OSU missed seven of 11 first-half free throws.
GW opened the second half playing with intensity for the first time in the game. It lasted 90 seconds.
The Colonials scored the first eight points of the half on two jump shots from Rogers and a three-pointer by Mescheriakov (eight points). A Mike King layup brought GW to 34-33 with only a minute and a half elapsed in the second half.
However, Oklahoma State scored 10 straight points during the next 3:19, with Peterson scoring six of those points. The Cowboys’ lead was back to 11 points, 44-33, with 16 minutes left in the game. The Colonials could get no closer than seven points the rest of the game.
Oklahoma State shot only 39 percent in the second half, but beat GW to almost every rebound. Cowboy reserve Brian Montonati was left alone under the basket twice for easy put backs.
“Even though they weren’t the bigger team, they were quicker to the ball,” said Koul, who led GW with seven rebounds.
Jarvis focused on using the game as a learning experience for next season when he addressed the media after the game.
This season, GW tied a school record for wins with 24 and was ranked as high as 17, its highest ranking in 42 years. The Colonials’ ninth seeding in the NCAA Tournament is the highest seed the school ever has received in the tournament. GW returns four starters next season. Only Koul, who spent the final five minutes of his up-and-down GW career sitting on the bench, will not return.
“Every ending is a new beginning and tonight just began the 1998 season,” Jarvis said.