Coming into the Fifth Annual BB&T Classic, the 2-3 GW men’s basketball team appeared for all the world to be in over its head, facing an impossible schedule, a losing record and a year without an NCAA Tournament bid. In short, if the 1999-2000 season was to still end in happiness, the team had no chance but to play for its life this weekend at the MCI Center.
And after a 74-69 upset of No. 24 Maryland (6-2) Sunday night in the BB&T Championship game – a victory over a bitter rival that was as thrilling and exhilarating as it was shocking – it was obvious to everyone that there’s a whole lot of life in these young Colonials yet.
GW (4-3) defeated Seton Hall University in the tournament’s first game Saturday to advance to the title game.
GW 74, No. 24 Maryland 69Sunday, Dec. 5
With the game knotted at a tense 67-67 with but a minute left, and with the deafening roar of 13,703 screaming fans at his back, junior point guard Bernard Barrow drained a three-pointer that silenced the Terrapin faithful and sent the small (by comparison) Colonial contingent into histrionics.
I couldn’t be happier for Bernard because he’s one of the best little point guards I’ve ever recruited, GW Coach Tom Penders said after the game.
I was just hungry, said Barrow, who had played just 16 minutes Saturday. I was just playing hungry. Yesterday, I had a bad game and today, I just bounced back. I just let everything flow.
The hard-fought, trash-talking, emotional local dual had all the makings of another GW/Maryland dogfight from the early-goings. Despite allowing Maryland’s Lonny Baxter to score the Terps’ first nine points in dominating fashion, the Colonials managed to hang with Maryland until falling behind 20-14 nine minutes in.
Here, Barrow (6-of-8 and 2-of-2 from three-point range for 17 points) drained his first three-pointer to bring GW back into the game. Through the rest of the second half, the Colonials built a four-point lead on three separate occasions and went into halftime with a rather startling 39-34 advantage.
Freshman guard and tournament Most Valuable Player SirValiant Brown, who set an Atlantic 10 record with his third consecutive Rookie of the Week citation to start the season, owned the first half. He scored 18 points in the opening frame on 5-of-9 shooting, 2-of-3 from behind the arc.
In addition, the Colonials had managed to do almost everything right, matching Maryland in every statistical category, plus shooting 10-of-11 from the line in the first half to Maryland’s 6-for-10 (led by Brown’s continued near-perfection at the free-throw line). Terence Morris, Maryland’s preseason all-American, had just two points at the half and would spend most of the game in foul trouble after committing three charges and finally fouling out with two minutes left.
Even with the five-point halftime lead, the game had the look of one that would go to the wire, and it was not just a little reminiscent of 1997’s championship game, when GW ground out a 70-66 upset of No. 19 Maryland.
I thought tonight was right there with that game, Maryland Coach Gary Williams said.
The second half opened with Brown’s last field goal of the game and saw Maryland reel off a 9-2 run to tie the game at 43. Neither team could build more than a three-point lead over the next eight minutes and GW found itself nursing a 58-55 advantage with just over five minutes remaining. Then Barrow buried a jumper, senior Francisco de Miranda nailed two free throws, Brown added four more and the Colonials could taste the upset as well as the 66-59 advantage with just three minutes left.
But this was GW and Maryland, and the Terps had one run left. After closing the game to 66-62, a steal by Maryland’s freshman point guard Steve Blake ended with a layup and foul from Terence Morris that set the MCI Center rocking. After a layup from Juan Dixon, GW’s lead had dissolved to nothing with a minute-and-a-half remaining.
Then Brown found Barrow for the deadly three-pointer and the 70-67 lead. Moments later, on the other end, Brown stole the entry pass, nailed two free throws and the celebrating started.
Although the Colonials were blocked 10 times, the frontcourt held its own at both ends, nullifying the vaunted Terrapin big men and leaving the game to be won at the guard positions, where GW harried on defense (forcing 28 turnovers) and penetrated on offense.
We pressured the heck out of their guards, Penders said. It’s kind of like in baseball, when great pitching beats great hitting. I thought our guards did a good job of pressuring passes and not allowing good looks.
I was impressed, they looked quick, said Williams of GW’s guards. I thought GW outworked us.I thought they worked harder defensively.
We didn’t out-hustle them, we just matched their intensity, Penders said. We beat a very good basketball team, and I’m very proud.
For his part, MVP Brown said the game particularly meant a lot to him.
This is very personal, he said. I grew up in this area. I grew up thinking, `I wish I could play against them.’
GW 72, Seton Hall 63
Saturday, Dec. 4
In a game of runs, the Colonials made the final one to top the Pirates of Seton Hall Saturday afternoon and kick off the day of New Jersey/Big East upsets.
In perhaps the team’s most solid performance of the season, the Colonials set up their third BB&T Championship appearance (all against Maryland) by riding the offense of four players. Junior Mike King, senior Francisco de Miranda, and freshmen SirValiant Brown and Chris Monroe together scored all but six of GW’s 72 points.
On defense, the Colonials recovered smashingly from Tuesday’s debacle in Ohio to force 28 turnovers, collect 10 steals, draw four charges and force the Pirates into no less than eight traveling violations. In addition, the Colonials pounded the offensive boards, pulling in 22 (led by de Miranda’s six and Monroe’s five), compared with just 18 defensive rebounds.
The game, played in front of a crowd of just a few thousand, saw GW gain a 9-8 lead three minutes into the game. The Pirates (3-1) proceeded to lay a 7-0 run on the Colonials, who answered with a 6-1 run that left SHU leading 16-15 with 12 minutes left in the first half. The Colonials allowed a Seton Hall three, then put the hammer down – dropping a 23-8 run on the Pirates to end the first half and not giving up a single SHU field goal in the final 12 minutes.
At halftime, Monroe had 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting and 6-of-6 at the free-throw line, plus three steals and four offensive rebounds. Brown had 11 points.
After entering the second half with an 11-point lead, the Colonials traded baskets with SHU until the score stood at 50-38 six minutes into the second frame. Then Darius Lane ripped off a 12-0 run to erase GW’s lead and seemingly all of its momentum as the Colonials were suddenly helpless against SHU’s zone defense. Seton Hall was fueled all day by the play of Lane, who shot 6-of-8 on threes and scored a game-high 24 points Saturday.
But with just under 10 minutes to play and the score knotted at 50, Monroe buried a three and started the 14-4 run that decided the game in GW’s favor.
The most interesting coaching decision Tom Penders made all day was at the point guard position, which mostly saw Brown and Mark Lund handling all the key sequences. Junior Bernard Barrow was held to one point and one assist in just 16 minutes of play.
The Colonials were, as usual, outshot for the game 45.2 to 38.1 percent, but despite a 60-percent performance for Seton Hall in the second half, GW converted 10 more field goals in that deciding period.