The Saints go marching home with a win

Siena 94, GW 91
Saturday, Dec. 11

After a week of SirValiant hype, GW’s 14-game home winning streak ended with a wild loss to the Saints of Siena College in front of 3,806 frenzied fans.

It was a game that will be long remembered in Foggy Bottom – if not for Brown’s Smith Center-record 42 points, then for the outbursts of Coach Tom Penders that left the packed student section roaring right through an improbable comeback that fell just short of victory. With a big boost from the officials (rightfully or not), the Saints were left celebrating a victory.

The night started innocently enough for the 4-4 Colonials and the 6-1 Saints. The Colonials, already benefiting from an abundance of foul calls (GW was already shooting one-and-ones six minutes into the game), held a 35-33 lead with five minutes left in the first half. Then Siena’s Marcus Faison (team-high 18 points) buried a three-pointer. A foul by Brown gave Siena the ball back instantly. A foul by Francisco de Miranda (who had another double-double with 10 rebounds and 12 points) elicited an exasperated leap from Assistant Coach Tommy Penders, Jr., and he was called for a technical. Siena buried the four free throws, then added a three-pointer and in 26 seconds and one trip down the floor, had scored 10 points.

Siena, known for its offense but playing without two starters, took a 54-45 lead into halftime. GW continued to hang around in the opening minutes of the second half, but ran into another officiating buzzsaw three minutes in. The ensuing events surely will enter Tom Penders folklore.

With 16:42 left in the game and the Colonials down 60-52, Brown was called for a shooting foul. He leaped around in frustration and was called for a technical. Penders stepped on the court and threw his jacket. He was called for a technical, and seconds later, was thrown out of the game for the second time at GW (the first was last year’s BB&T Classic game against DePaul University).

By now, Penders was apoplectic, directing all of his anger at official Joe Mingle, who has been no stranger to hurled expletives from the student body at the Smith Center. Penders had to be restrained by the coaches and players, then after a few moments, made his way to center court, where he was restrained quite physically by the equal-to-the-task Patrick Ngongba. Ngongba escorted Penders back to the bench, where a Smith Center employee escorted him to the southwest exit. But Penders lingered there for a moment, then made a gesture directed at the heavyset Mingle, miming with his hands a large belly, then mouthing fatso. At this point, the student section reached levels of volume it’s probably impossible to top.

For Penders’ part, he expressed afterwards that he shouldn’t have been ejected. He expressed frusration at the number of fouls in the two-and-a-half hour game. The officials called a Smith Center-record 69 fouls, while Siena’s 39-for-49 performance from the line shattered the Smith Center-records for an opponent’s free throw attempts and conversions. GW tied the Smith Center Colonials record for made free throws (37) and set a new record for attempts (53). Penders felt his son should not have received a technical and that the Siena coaches, who were out of control, should have been ejected if he was.

I went out on the floor to get a technical to get the team and the crowd into it and not to get thrown out, said Penders after the game, which he listened to on WRGW. I should not have been thrown out. I said absolutely nothing to get thrown out. I was just trying to get one technical, and he overreacted. I just thought the big, heavyset official had a bad attitude that was written all over his face. In fact, before the game, he said to me, `You’ve been coaching an awful long time to only have 500 wins’. I think I should get a little respect from that guy.

After the insanity, which dragged on as students threw objects onto the court and after a Siena fan virtually challenged half the student section to a fight and was then personally ejected by Athletic Director Jack Kvancz (again, much to the delight of what had truly become Smith Center Psychos), Siena went to the line for its foul shots. The Saints made five of six, then scored two on the ensuing possession, and had scored seven points in one trip and nine seconds. Another jumper made it 68-52 with 16 minutes left in the game.

Here, Brown took over, putting on a show the likes of which the Smith Center had never seen. Breaking Mike Brown’s 1985 record of 40 points, Brown scored 29 in the second half (42 for the game on 11-for-30 shooting) to bring the Colonials roaring back and into the lead, 82-80, with four minutes left. But Bernard Barrow fouled out just moments later and with Mike King on the bench with an injured shoulder, the Colonials found playmaking difficult down the stretch.

Still, Siena was losing players left and right (four fouled out in the last six minutes) and the heroics of Brown were enough to bring the Colonials almost to the brink of victory despite falling behind 88-82 with two minutes left. Here, Brown made two free throws (he would make 16 and tie Mike Brown for the Smith Center record in that category), then stole the in-bounds pass, was fouled, made a free throw, missed the second, but converted the rebound by Ngongba into a layup.

The mesmerizing sequence (of which superstars are made) took 15 seconds and cut the lead to one. Still, the Saints continued to bury free throws, and, after cutting the lead to 92-91 with nine seconds left, Siena hit two more free throws to forge a three-point lead. Brown’s tying three-point attempt fell short at the end of the game.

After the game, Siena’s players and coaches talked about the emotional and big-game atmosphere that Colonials fans have come to expect so far in a season that has had no shortage of emotional, hard-fought games.

I wouldn’t want to be an official in a game like this, Siena Coach Paul Hewitt said. It was a tough game for the officials to officiate. It was physical. It was emotional. It was two teams trying to find themselves early in the season.

For me, this is one of the most gratifying wins I’ve had as coach.

Lost in some of the excitement was Brown’s 42 points, which earned him his fourth consecutive Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors. The performance came after a week of post-BB&T Classic hype, with CBS Sportsline and Sport Illustrated both featuring the freshman sensation. Penders said he had talked to Brown a lot about keeping a level head despite all the attention.

He’s a very sensitive kid, Penders said. I talk to him about keeping things in perspective, and he does.I’d rather have (him score the record 42 points) in a win. Val was in the locker room crying his eyes out. That’s the type of kid he is.

The loss dropped GW below .500 after nine games for the first time since 1988, but after the game, GW’s schedule ranked fourth in difficulty among all Division I teams, according to collegerpi.com.

Bradley 75, GW 65
Wednesday, Dec. 8

In their second true road game of the season, the Colonials again had to contend with a tough team form the Midwest looking for respect and revenge. But unlike the blowout a week before at Ohio University, GW came out well and only folded late to lose in front of 9,175 fans at the Carver Center in Peoria, Ill.

SirValiant Brown scored a season-low 17 on 6-of-28 shooting as the Colonials fell behind when Bradley dropped a 10-0 run midway through the second half. That nullified GW’s 34-30 lead at the half and secured the win for the Braves, who raised their record to 4-2.

Senior guard Mark Lund converted his only field-goal attempt, the first made field goal of his college career.

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