ORLANDO, FLA. – After the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Cinderella teams abounded as low seeds consistently beat the top seeds in the first and second rounds.
But the GW men’s basketball team forgot to get fitted for its glass slipper as the Colonials were escorted from the “Big Dance” early in a 108-88 rout by Indiana University March 11 at Orlando Arena.
“It’s real disappointing to lose again in the first round, especially since it’s my last college game,” senior point guard Shawnta Rogers said.
Despite amassing an impressive 80-40 record in the last four years, GW hasn’t won in the postseason since 1994. For the third time in four years, Rogers, fellow senior Yegor Mescheriakov and the rest of the Colonials lost a first-round game in the NCAAs. The other year they lost a first-round game in the National Invitational Tournament.
GW’s performance seemed eerily similar to its last game, a blowout loss to Atlantic 10 champion Rhode Island in the conference tournament semifinals. In that game, the Rams put away the Colonials almost before they could blink, and the same was the case against the Hoosiers. GW couldn’t shoot against the Rams, and allowed URI to hit for a high percentage of its shots from the field.
|“It’s real disappointing to lose again in the first round, especially since it’s my last college game.”
– Shawnta Rogers
In the first half of the Indiana game, a hot-shooting Hoosier team (63 percent for the half) blew away the Colonials, who were hitting just 33 percent of their own shots. That included only two three-pointers in 13 attempts. GW was also uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball – turning the ball over 11 times – but only two of those turnovers came on Indiana steals.
“We did everything we could to lose,” GW head coach Tom Penders said. “These kids want it so bad. They were too tight early. We tried to pass when we had shots and shoot when we had passes.”
GW (20-9) trailed just 5-4 at the first television timeout, but Indiana immediately went on a 16-1 run to take a 20-5 lead that the Colonials would challenge only once.
“Tonight we just couldn’t get it going early, and I thought it was a game we needed to get on top early,” Penders said.
One of the few good moments in the game for GW came on the first two possessions as Indiana’s William Gladness threw the ball away on a football pass after the Hoosiers won the tip. On GW’s possession Patrick Ngongba hit a 12-foot jumper on an assist from Yegor Mescheriakov to give the Colonials a 2-0 lead.
But things turned sour quickly as GW either failed to score or turned the ball over on its next six possessions, including two turnovers by Rogers in the first two minutes. The only thing that kept the Colonials in the game was the fact that Indiana was playing just as badly.
But the Hoosiers came out like a new team after the timeout at the 15:42 mark. Indiana tied the game and guard A.J. Guyton got his team the lead with a three-pointer from the right arc. Then Indiana started beating GW inside as it would for the rest of the game.
Good passes into the paint led to easy scores by Lynn Washington and William Gladness. Later Gladness would crash the offensive boards for two more easy buckets, and sophomore Luke Recker put an exclamation point on Indiana’s run with a dunk on a fast break.
By the end of the flurry, Indiana had taken a 15-point lead and the Colonials didn’t know what had hit them.
“We got off to a really good start,” Indiana head coach Bob Knight said. “After the first few minutes we settled down. All in all it was a really good ballgame for us.”
While much had been made of the guard match-ups – Rogers against Guyton and Mike King against Luke Recker – Indiana won the game by beating the Colonials inside.
“We definitely wanted to come out and play well,” said Kirk Haston, who scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Indiana. “We knew we had a big lineup. That was going to be a big part of the game. We wanted to help out our guards as much as we could.”
| “We did everything we could to lose.”
– GW head coach Tom Penders
Indiana also picked GW apart with its passing, running a motion offense almost to perfection in addition to beating GW in transition. Five Hoosiers have three or more assists as they tallied 23 for the game.
“I think the transition game was important to us tonight in the fact that George Washington likes to run and we thought we could counteract that by running against them,” said Recker of his team’s game, in which they set a school record for points in a postseason game. “They got back as well as they got down on offense. It’s just one of those games where its to our advantage to run and we took advantage of it.”
GW hadn’t given up that many points in more than 10 years.
While few of GW’s players had good games, Mescheriakov was one of the few who did, scoring 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Rogers scored a game-high 28 points, but he did it by making just 10 of his 31 attempts from the field. He also turned the ball over five times and made just three assists.
But it was Rogers who sparked a GW comeback midway through the first half. With GW trailing 24-9, he drove the middle with an acrobatic shot to start a 10-0 GW run. Later he made both halves of a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line and made a trey from the right arc.
Roey Eyal capped the run with a long jumper in which his foot was on the three-point line.
With the score 24-19 Indiana immediately responded with six unanswered points and would allow its lead to slip to single digits only once more in the game.
Indiana took a 48-31 lead into halftime and it got much worse in the second half. At a few points in the game it looked like the Hoosiers were running a layup drill against GW in pushing their lead to nearly 30 points.
“I’d seen them 10 times and I’d seen them look like this on other occasions,” Penders said. “They did a great job of putting us away.”
As good as Indiana (23-9) looked against GW, it looked just as bad as St. John’s defeated the Hoosiers two days later in the second round of the tournament.
The Red Storm played man-to-man at the start of its game with Indiana – like the Colonials did for the entire game.
But St. John’s head coach and former GW coach Mike Jarvis switched to a 2-3 zone in the first half and dominated the rest of the game.
Jarvis had said March 10, the day before the tournament started, that it might have been a “conspiracy” that St. John’s and GW could meet in the second round.
But if that was the master plan, somebody forgot to tell the Colonials.
With two disappointing losses, GW’s season and the era of Mescheriakov and Rogers came to a close. The questions about what will happen to this program next year and beyond will begin to surface as GW loses its two best players, and two of the best players in GW history.
“We accomplished a lot of things and set the tone for next year,” Penders said.
“And one disappointing game in the NCAA Tournament is not going to discourage me.”