Sports: Colonials feel wrath of A-10 muscle

A win against either Xavier or St. Joseph’s this weekend would have gone far to legitimize the Colonials’ unexpected early run at Atlantic 10 dominance.

Instead, two losses, including an 18-point bruising from the Hawks in Philadelphia, have made evident what is clear on paper: GW is undersized, inadequate and unable to find consistent scoring in anybody other than Chris Monroe.

Monroe, GW’s leading scorer in both games, overshadowed his team with 32 points in a home loss to Xavier Thursday, a game that began with the Musketeers 10-0 run and climaxed with an unsuccessful late-game insurgency. The 6-foot-3 power forward’s efforts were heroic but failed to overcome his team’s 29 percent first-half shooting.

A more pressing issue for coach Karl Hobbs is his team’s stamina, which appears to be low early in games and explosive later on. This did not prove problematic until last weekend, when Hobbs learned that a reliance on late spurts does not work against dominating teams. GW made no strong gains in the second half against St. Joe’s and could not build on a run that pulled GW to within six points twice against Xavier.

Another issue is Greg Collucci. The three-point specialist is playing on a sore ankle he injured at a practice last week, which seemed to ail him against Xavier, limiting the guard to just 12 minutes and rendering harmless his long-range shot. Collucci, Hobbs’s late-game go-to guy, connected on just 25 percent of his 16 three-pointers in both games.
This weekend’s showing, which included a breakout performance from freshman Tamal Forchion and evidence that the Colonials (10-7, 3-3) can shoot well even after a bad home loss, has evened their conference record and dropped the team to fourth place in the A-10 West.

Xavier (13-3, 5-0) meanwhile shook off GW and has a firm grasp on first
place in the West. St. Joe’s (11-4, 5-0 A-10) remains undefeated in the A-10 East.

St. Joe’s 92, GW 74
Jan. 20
SJU Fieldhouse

PHILADELPHIA – St. Joseph’s shot nearly 86 percent from the field in the second half en route to a 92-74 victory Sunday. Five Hawks scored in double figures, including the Atlantic 10’s fifth-leading scorer guard Marvin O’Connor, who posted a game-high 19 points. Chris Monroe led GW with 18 points, and freshman Tamal Forchion turned in his second consecutive strong game, scoring 16 points and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes.

The good news for GW was its shooting, which improved to 43 percent, a sharp increase from Thursday’s loss to visiting Xavier. The bad news was St. Joe’s 92 points, a product of its own good shooting.

St. Joseph’s led 43-30 at halftime and extended its lead in the second half, going 18-for-21 from the field.

St. Joe’s opened the half on a 15-4 run led by O’Connor and Damian Reid, who had 15 points and 8 rebounds. This stretched the lead to 58-34 after just three minutes had passed.

GW made its only run in the second half when Greg Collucci, who earned all 12 points from long range, and Marquin Chandler hit consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to 71-55 with nine minutes remaining. But the Colonials could not get a defensive stop when they needed one.

With 5:27 remaining and the shot clock winding down, Hawks forward Bill Phillips hit a back-breaking fade-away three-pointer from the corner to extend the lead to 80-60. St. Joe’s never looked back.

GW started the game strong, leading 8-7 and forcing four turnovers after five minutes of play, but midway through the first half the Hawks began to pull away.

“We wanted to keep them from getting to the line,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “As long as we didn’t foul them, I didn’t think they would finish some of the drives.”

Martelli’s strategy paid off, as the Colonials shot only two free throws in the first half and were held to 17 attempts in the game, well below their season average of 28.

Another factor that contributed to the early deficit was rebounding. GW was out-rebounded 20-9 in the first half and gave up nine offensive boards, which Colonials coach Karl Hobbs said was their biggest problem.

“We played a good first half,” he said. “Our defense was good and we kept O’Connor in check, but we just gave up too many second shots.”

Xavier 71, GW 63
Jan. 17
Smith Center

Every time the Colonials made a run, the Xavier Musketeers had an answer. Xavier, led by sophomore Romain Sato’s 23 points, jumped out to a quick 10-point lead at the Smith Center Thursday night, and GW couldn’t get any closer than six point the rest of the way.

“I thought the difference in the game was allowing them to start the game off 10-0,” Colonials coach Karl Hobbs said. “So, from that point on it changed up our whole game plan.”

While the Colonials were able to slow down last season’s A-10 Player of the Year David West, who finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, they were unable to stop Xavier’s other two big scorers, Sato and Kevin Frey (13 points, 11 rebounds).

The Colonials were led by Chris Monroe, who scored 32 points on 11-for-21 shooting, and Tamal Forchion, who scored a career-high 17 points, hitting six of nine shots from the floor. Besides them, the Colonials presented very little offense.

“When you go against a great player like Monroe, it’s hard to have answers for him,” Xavier head coach Thad Matta said.

-Steve Bernard and Brian Costa, who reported from Philadelphia, contributed to this report.

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