The hoop is on fire: Penders-ball breaks out in Foggy Bottom

The old saying goes, “I went to a basketball game last night, and a track meet broke out.” Well, who says GW doesn’t have a track team?

Thursday night, Tom Penders finally got 100 points out of his team, and his scoreboard-breaking style had its Foggy Bottom coming-out party. We should have known something was up when we saw the spotlight out front. But what is this newfangled roundball that has James Naismith pick-and-rolling in his grave?

We’ll call it Penders-ball. Better get used to it.

For those who remember an old miser named Mike Jarvis, this pyrotechnic display is indeed a shock to the system. The Colonials haven’t been this offensive since the Revolutionary War. Only 11 months and a few scoreboard bulbs ago, the Smith Center hosted a game between Temple and GW that only the Ugly Duckling’s mother could have loved. The halftime score was 20-19. Nowadays, GW can drop in 19 before Albert Roma gets his first foul.

Truth be told, the Buff and Blue only average 80 points a game, just seven more than last year, but oh, what a difference seven points make. The Duquesne rampage marked the sixth time this year GW has topped 90 points. Since 1979, that’s only happened once in a whole season. No wonder they had “Runnin’ Horns” printed on their shorts back at the University of Texas. What are we, the “Joggin’ Georges”?

Not that anyone’s complaining, mind you. Winning will do that for you, and besides, these kids today love their offense. Penders’ recruiting class is proof of that. Sometimes they love their offense so much, they’ll let the other teams in on the fun. Why, earlier this season, our Colonials scored 99 points – and lost. No such generosity Thursday night, though. GW pressed from the start, and the Dukes played along for a half, but then managed all of four points (FOUR POINTS!) in the first 12-plus minutes of the second half. When they finally remembered which basket was theirs, the Colonials had a somewhat comfy 47-point lead. To be sure, the massacre was on.

The Colonials led by as many as 56, and still had the Dukes doubled-up with 90 seconds left (of course, to be fair, these were the Dukes, not Duke University, that GW was steamrolling). After the 109-57 decision, someone tried to hand Duquesne coach Darelle Porter the game stats. He said, “I don’t need that. I lived through it.”

At the post-game press conference, Penders-ball had so demoralized Porter that he was willing to say all the things a good Colonials fan likes to hear – including that they played better than a University of Maryland team that beat the Dukes by 34 points earlier in the season.

So, with Penders-ball in full effect, can GW fans expect a lot more of these feel-good evenings at the Tom Tom Club? Well, believe it or not, Penders keeps saying this isn’t even his style. He’d like to press a lot more and that will come in a couple years when he has players who can handle it. By then, they had better install a scoreboard that goes to 200.

In the meantime, the Smith Center still can expect to see a lot of things it hasn’t seen in a while, if ever.

Thursday’s game marked the GW men’s largest Smith Center margin of victory (topping the old mark of 51). The game tied for GW’s third-largest margin of victory in school history (behind 57 – set in 1973, and 55 – set in 1933); the 109-point outburst tied for fifth-most in Smith Center history, and was the 11th highest in the team’s history; the margin of victory was GW’s highest in any Atlantic 10 game ever, and was also the most points GW has ever scored in an A-10 game.

It was also Duquesne’s worst thumping since 1938. In short, it was a blitzkrieg worthy of GW fan Wolf Blitzer. Penders hadn’t beaten anybody that bad at the Smith Center since . well, since 1988, when Penders and Rhode Island crushed GW 92-61 (oops).

Of course, Penders-ball needs players to work, and suddenly great players were easy to find Thursday. The team field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages were all among the top three performances this season. In fact, if there’s one drawback to Penders-ball, at least from a starter’s standpoint, all that scoring adds up to a lot of garbage time. When the second-teamers mercifully came in with 7:23 to go and the score 92-43, it halted several personal runs at the record books.

Yegor Mescheriakov was five points shy of a new career high, and GW career-leader in assists Shawnta Rogers, with 10 assists on the night, could have made a run at several marks, including his career high of 14 and the GW record of 15. Incidentally, Penders-ball also gave Rogers his first time on the bench since the Dayton game.

The second-teamers held their own, and pleased the crowd by pushing the madness to 100, but the third-teamers missed so many short shots you’d have thought they were shaving points. No matter, Penders-ball had already done its job.

If there was one more milestone the GW students wanted, it was to see Mark Lund’s first collegiate field goal. But, alas, it was not to be, despite the deafening roar every time he so much as breathed on the ball. When asked if there was possibly a Mark Lund play anywhere in Penders-ball, Penders replied:

“As a matter of fact, I called a one-play, which is for him – and Shawnta. But Daniel Soares had the ball, and Danny gets deaf and dumb real quick out there. But we have the best scout team in practice . They just had a little stage fright, which is understandable.”

If that’s a problem, it probably won’t be one for long. If GW can keep this up, all the “Joggin’ Georges” will have a chance to get used to the spotlight. Heck, if GW can keep this up, they might start suiting up “The Sensation.” Indeed, after Thursday, anything seemed possible, even Mark Lund’s first basket. Because, with Penders-ball here, there will be plenty of points to go around.

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