Freshman T.J. Thompson converted a game-winning lay-up with a half second remaining to defeat Fordham 70-68 Saturday and secure the Colonials a fifth seed for this week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament. The five-day tournament begins Wednesday at Philadelphia’s First Union Spectrum, where GW will play fourth-seeded Massachusetts first.
Had GW lost to Fordham and Duquesne beat Richmond Saturday, the Colonials would have finished last in the West and opened the tournament with a game against St. Bonaventure. But first-year head coach Karl Hobbs had confidence in Thompson, who had not scored on the day and came off the bench for the last play.
Fordham’s William “Smush” Parker, poised to tie the game at 68, missed on his first attempt and connected on the second with 5.8 seconds remaining. Darnell Miller threw the in-bounds pass to Thompson, who came streaming towards the Colonials basket with only one thing on his mind: the rim.
The basket proved a couple things for the Colonials, who won their second-straight game after a 10-game losing streak. First, it proved that GW (12-15, 5-11 A-10) does not need lead scorer Chris Monroe, who scored 24 points on 7-of-16 shooting, for every big play. It also proved that Karl Hobbs has confidence in the young players behind Monroe and senior center Jaason Smith.
The buzzer-beating finish was a fitting end to a close game in which no team held a dominating lead. GW opened the second half with 33-32 lead but saw it disappear after Rams guards Mark Jarrell-Wright (18 points) and Duke Freeman-McKamey (13 points, 15 rebounds) stepped up play.
With less than six minutes remaining, Jarrell-Wright’s two free throws put Fordham ahead 60-56.
But Hobbs went with his shooting, which rose to 50 percent in the second half to pull GW back. Marquin Chandler (11 points) and Greg Collucci (10 points) each hit three-pointers. Tamal Forchion (10 points) connected on a three-point play to erase a late deficit and set up the winning basket.
On Wednesday the Colonials will play a team that beat GW with size and desire in late January. Massachusetts, a bigger, more muscular team, handed GW a 13-point loss in Amherst on Jan. 23. Minutemen 6-foot-10 center Kitwana Rhymer scored 14 points, 6-foot-5 forward Raheim Lamb scored 10 and the 6-foot-11 forward Micah Brand scored a team-high 17 points.