Rushed shots and costly turnovers crippled the young Colonial squad against the University of Connecticut in the first round of the BB&T Classic Sunday afternoon. Head coach Karl Hobbs watched his alma mater and former players score 27 points off turnovers and force a woeful 35 percent shooting on their way to Monday’s title game against the University of Maryland in the MCI Center.
The Colonials played bigger than their size by grabbing nine more offensive rebounds than the larger UConn team. But it was not enough to prevent a 84-76 defeat that advances the Huskies to the finals of the BB&T Classic. No. 5 Maryland held off Princeton University 84-63 in earlier action.
GW will host Princeton at 5:30 p.m. Monday and may be without point guard T.J. Thompson after he sustained a left ankle injury. For the second-straight game, the 5-foot-9 freshman point guard had to be carried off the court after he rolled his ankle with about 13 seconds remaining and the game clearly in UConn’s hands.
Hobbs said he did not know the severity of the injury but noted that Thompson’s stamina would be needed against Princeton – perhaps the best passing team in the country.
“I’m going to turn the lights off and say a little prayer,” Hobbs said, implying how necesarry it is for Thompson to produce like he did against UConn: 39 minutes, 19 points and six assists to match six turnovers. “There’s no doubt he’s the most valuable player on my team. He sets up how we play.”
Playing without Thompson will mean more time for sophomore Darnell Miller, who saw just 8 minutes and contributed five assists and three rebounds.
Hobbs said his team gave it 100 percent but showed its youth.
“I’m proud of my team; I thought our effort was tremendous,” Hobbs said, referring to his team’s ability to stay focused. Although the Colonials were down by as much as 13 points to a more talented Huskies team, they remained focused and closed a second-half deficit with a late run climbing to within eight points.
“I can’t tell you what it is,” said GW’s leading scorer Chris Monroe. “If I knew honestly we wouldn’t be down. I think we’re a second half team.” The forward bullied and elbowed his way to a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds.
The Colonials managed to out-rebound the Huskies 42 to 40, with nine more offensive rebounds. Jaason Smith had five offensive boards. The clear difference in the game was the level of talent, depth and size that the Huskies capitalized on.
Four UConn players scored in double figures, including points leader Johnny Selvie, who had 20, and freshman Ben Gordon, who posted 19.
The Huskies used their size to shut down GW’s lone three-point threat, Greg Collucci, who ended the day with 8 points on two three-pointers. All afternoon Collucci worked unsuccessfully to free himself from the long arms of the 6-foot-7 Selvie and the 6-foot-7 Caron Butler, who scored 14 points for UConn.
But head coach Jim Calhoun said the game was not a strong effort from the Huskies. Early fouls forced UConn Calhoun to seat point guard Taliek Brown, who finished with two points in nine minutes. He said his team, comprised of four freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and one senior, played only about eight strong minutes of basketball. GW, he said, played what looked like 20 good minutes.
The Colonials trailed 8-7 midway through the first half before a 14-6 UConn run put the Huskies ahead 22-13 with about 10 minutes to go in the half. They took a 49-36 lead into halftime but saw that cut down in the second half.