Colonials to face UMass in A-10s

The GW men’s basketball team got a first-round bye and a .500 record. This weekend, they’ll find out whether those accomplishments will be for naught.

Thursday at 2:30 p.m., in what may be their final game of the 1999-2000 season, the Colonials (15-14) will play Massachusetts (16-14) in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the First Union Spectrum. Although the Minutemen will be seeking revenge from their home loss to GW Feb. 29, there’s a lot of recent history on the Colonials’ side.

GW has won three straight over UMass overall and two straight in the A-10s. Also, GW has not lost its opening game since 1995, winning four straight quarterfinals. UMass, on the other hand, has lost three straight quarterfinal games and has never beaten GW in three quarterfinal matchups.

Coach Tom Penders said his team plans to attack UMass the same way it did a week ago.

Get it into an up-tempo game, he said. They play a very good halfcourt game.

For the sixth straight year, GW is at least a No. 2 seed, and in any other year the Colonials, winners of nine of their last 12, would be a popular pick to take home their first A-10 Championship and return to the NCAA Tournament.

But if the Colonials get past UMass, they will almost certainly have to face No. 6 Temple in the semifinals. Temple pasted GW at the Smith Center Saturday 98-67 without starting center Kevin Lyde, who is back with the team now.

GW has two streaks it would like to see continue this weekend. The Colonials have finished with a winning record the past nine seasons and have been in the NIT or the NCAA the past seven years.

Although the Colonials got the record they’ll need to be eligible for the NIT, a bid (the field is announced Sunday evening) may be a long shot. A win over UMass and a good showing against Temple would go a long way. A loss Thursday and a 15-15 record may sink the Colonials.

I have no idea (of our chances), Penders said. The last 13 years, I’ve only focused on the NCAAs. (The NIT) would be nice, a really nice reward.

A-10 Rookie of the Year SirValiant Brown will be in contention this weekend for two personal accomplishments. He has 705 points on the year, 18 short of Bob Tallent’s 1968-`69 record of 723. He also will try to overtake Fresno State University’s Courtney Alexander to become the first freshman in history to lead the nation in scoring. He trails Alexander 25.6 points per game to 24.3 ppg.

With another seemingly impossible mission looming this weekend, one wonders what a coach tells his team.

Just relax, go out and have fun, Penders said. It’s postseason. It’s March. It’s just about going out there and playing, letting it all hang out.

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