The Colonials (6-11, 0-4 in the Atlantic 10) lost again Saturday for the eighth time in the last 10 games and completed the second, three-game losing streak of the season.
But with GW’s full cadre of guards playing a complete game for the first time since Dec. 8, 1999, all signs were positive that the Colonials can still look to be competitive in this topsy-turvy Atlantic 10.
GW followed its usual 1999-2000 pattern against the Flyers (14-3, 4-1 A-10) at the University of Dayton Arena Saturday. The team took an early lead, allowed a huge first-half run, made a huge comeback in the second half and lost in the last couple of minutes. But a team with as poor a record as GW wasn’t expected to pose any kind of threat on the road in front of 12,535 fans in one of the A-10’s toughest arenas against a team off to its best start in 32 years.
The Colonials held Dayton scoreless for the first four minutes and led 13-9 when Dayton center Mark Ashman (18 points, seven rebounds) scored eight points to spark a 25-8 run that put Dayton on top 28-17. That was basically the margin for the rest of the first half and a good portion of the second half as a tough GW defense caused 22 turnovers but could not stop Dayton on the boards. Dayton also enjoyed a generous free-throw disparity, attempting 43 in the game to GW’s 24.
Midway through the second half, Dayton continued to fight off GW advances and built a 55-39 lead with 14 minutes left. Then, freshman SirValiant Brown went on one of his patented spurts, personally accounting for a 7-0 run that drew GW within nine. He then assisted senior center Francisco de Miranda on a bucket, then again scored GW’s next seven points, but could not further close the gap.
With Dayton up 75-67 with four minutes left, Mark Ashman committed his fifth foul, and GW quickly scored four points to cut the lead to 75-71. After Mike King made it 77-73, Dayton converted a key bucket as the shot-clock buzzer sounded to lead by six. Still, both teams had opportunities in the last minute to score, but missed layups and missed free throws kept the suspense low as Dayton pulled out a surprisingly difficult 83-76 victory.
Brown scored 22, including 4-of-9 on three-pointers. His 24.9 scoring average fell to second in the nation. Freshman Chris Monroe continued his sparkling play and led all scorers with 25 points, plus seven rebounds.
Saturday’s gritty performance signaled that perhaps the Colonials are back in a position where their limited 1999-2000 potential can be reached. Junior Mike King’s return to the lineup has had immediate benefits for the team in terms of depth and experience. Despite an extremely talented (albeit inconsistent) backcourt, the Colonials can expect no help this season where they need it the most – in the frontcourt. Patrick Ngongba is out for the season, and the noticeable lack of what Coach Tom Penders calls a physical presence severely hampered the Colonials’ chances at Dayton., where GW was outrebounded 50-35 and killed on putbacks, giving up 16 second-chance points.
I thought the intensity level was good, Penders said. I thought we took care of our defensive assignments better.We just got beat on the putbacks, the second shots. On first-chance defense, we did very well. But they hurt us on second-chance points.
Despite that, by hanging with Dayton for all 40 minutes, the Colonials showed that they need not expect to lose to anyone in the Atlantic 10, where shocking results have become the order of the day (see La Salle 80, Xavier 49 at Xavier Sunday). The prospect of having a near-complete team (including a SirValiant Brown that Penders says is up to 80 percent) could not come at a better time for GW, as the next month’s schedule is as generous to the Colonials as any A-10 schedule could be – and could provide an opportunity for GW to climb above .500. Six of the next eight games are at home (starting with Wednesday’s matchup against the upstart 12-3 Bonnies of St. Bonaventure). The two road games are winnable (at La Salle and Duquesne). Of course, with these Colonials, eight straight wins would be no more surprising than eight straight losses.
It’s gonna be real important for us to play well, Penders said. We’re playing with, again, an inexperienced team that I don’t know what to expect from night to night.
But even if the Colonials somehow ran the table in the A-10 (quite a feat, considering that after the favorable eight-game stretch the Colonials finish at Xavier, Fordham, UMass, and home vs. Temple), no one would be penciling them in for the NCAA Tournament. At this point, the Colonials’ only shot at that will come March 8-11 in Philadelphia at the A-10 Championship.
Perhaps, if the Colonials recover to go to the National Invitational Tournament or pull an upset in Philadelphia, they can point to the afternoon they didn’t beat Dayton.