The Colonials didn’t win the NABC Classic, but they came closer than anybody thought. Heading into Kentucky’s Rupp Arena with just eight scholarship players and a banged-up Chris Monroe, the Colonials erased a 19-point deficit and handed Marshall University a stunning 69-64 defeat Thursday evening to advance to the finals.
After getting blown out 73-49 by Western Kentucky University in Friday’s title game, the Colonials played like both a Division I basketball team and a team comprised of eight freshmen, four walk-ons and one returning starter. They were energetic, resilient and wildly inconsistent.
As expected, Monroe led in scoring, adding 26 points against Marshall and 13 against WKU. Power forward Tamal Forchion scored 14 points in his collegiate debut but just five points in the title game.
The tournament’s powerhouse, fourth-ranked University of Kentucky, was handed an early surprise at home by Western Kentucky, losing 64-52.
While new head coach Karl Hobbs earned his first GW win, the team fell short in key areas, namely zone defense and rebounding. GW out-rebounded Marshall by five in the win but was forced to switch to man-to-man coverage in the second half. The Colonials posted 10 fewer boards than WKU.
But the weekend was an overall success for a young team that showed resiliency, limiting Marshall to 11 points and two second-half field goals.
The Colonials look to improve on 27 percent shooting against WKU when they take on Texas A&M University Monday night in College Station, Texas.
WKU 73, GW 48
Seven-foot center Chris Marcus scored 19 points and Derek Robinson added 17 in a 73-48 victory over GW in the finals of the NABC Classic. Chris Monroe scored 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting to lead GW for the second consecutive game. Greg Collucci also had a strong game, going 4-for-10 from the floor for 11 points.
Neither player was able to cover GW’s dismal offensive game. GW shot 28 percent from the floor (17-for-61) and had just two assists all game.
Coming off a second-half defensive gem against Marshall, the Colonials were beaten on the boards 44-34 by the Hilltoppers.
Early in the second half, WKU went on a 9-0 run to expand its lead to 47-28. The Colonials quickly cut the lead from 19 to nine points midway through the second half, reminiscent of the night before. But the Hilltoppers put the game out of reach with a 12-0 run that gave them a 59-38 lead with just about six minutes remaining.
The score was tied at 11 midway through the first half, but WKU overcame early shooting woes and outscored GW 17-9 heading into halftime. The Hilltoppers took a 28-20 lead in the locker room.
Both teams found their big men in early foul trouble in the first half. Marcus sat out most of the first half with two fouls, while GW’s Albert Roma picked up three and Jaason Smith had four in the first half.
Marcus added 10 rebounds to his 19-point performance and was named the tournament MVP. Monroe was named to the All-Tournament team along with WKU’s Robinson, Marshall’s Tamar Slay and Kentucky’s Keith Bogans.
GW 69, Marshall 64
Karl Hobbs should bottle and sell his halftime speech. After trailing 18 points at the break, GW came roaring back to score 35 points and hold Marshall to 11 points on two field goals and 7 percent shooting.
Coming off a first half in which Marshall’s Tamar Slaw dismantled GW’s zone defense to score 19 points, the Colonials matched up man to man and shut down Slay.
The Colonials pulled to 58-48 on a Tamal Forchion rebound and dunk with 14:30 remaining. Chris Monroe, who finished with 26 points, drained a long 3-pointer with 11:14 remaining that cut the margin to 60-53. Jaason Smith landed a jump hook in the lane putting GW ahead 63-62, at the eight-minute mark. Leading 67-64, Monroe sunk two free throws after a hard foul, giving GW its 69-64 win.