Between the lines: When losing is better than winning

Judging by their current record, the Colonials are a .500 team. Their three wins over Mount St. Mary’s, Bucknell and Florida International countered three losses to No. 14 Connecticut, No. 2 Texas and No. 9 Maryland. On the surface, the first two weeks of the season have gone exactly the way everyone expected. But if you were at the MCI Center this weekend, you saw that maybe we should expect more.

If you scan the headlines, you’ll see that GW lost both games this weekend, finishing fourth in the four-team BB&T Classic. The bottom line was the same at Connecticut Nov. 25 – a GW loss, something fans have become all too accustomed to in recent years. But their three losses have been more indicative of future success than any of GW’s wins.

After the Connecticut loss, the Colonials went on a three-game winning streak, their longest in two years. But if you remember GW’s last two seasons, that isn’t saying much.

A 14-point win over Mt. St. Mary’s Nov. 29 was impressive for two reasons. The Colonials put the game away when it counted even though they weren’t at their best and honestly, when was the last time you saw a blowout at the Smith Center in GW’s favor? Exactly.

A three-point win over Bucknell the following night was an exciting one to watch and a positive win against a team that played better than it should have. But it’s the Red Auerbach Classic. GW has won the tournament all nine years of its existence, so the wins don’t mean they won’t get crushed by Xavier in February.

Last Tuesday’s game at Florida International was probably the best win for GW so far because they took FIU out of its the game from the start and played well on the road. That’s important for a team that won only three games in somebody else’s building last season. But only 778 people showed up for that one. That’s even more pathetic than the Smith Center. So greater tests on the road are yet to come.

Wins are always good, but GW’s wins didn’t mean much outside of the actual games themselves. Three losses to ranked teams, however, were another story.

Starting the season at Connecticut, the Colonials should have gotten blown out by a bigger, deeper and more experienced team. To say the least, they didn’t. The Huskies’ Emaka Okafor is the leading rebounder in the nation but GW out-rebounded UConn by one and held their potent offense to 35 percent shooting. If GW makes more than 31 percent of its shots, that game is a lot closer than a 12-point loss.

For a starting line-up of one senior and three freshmen to give one of the top 20 teams in the country a 40 minute headache means more than another tally in the win or the loss column.

Sunday, a tired GW team was the underdog once again against an emotionally charged Maryland squad that had just lost two games in a row for the first time in nearly two years. But GW led by as many as 12 points early before fatigue and talent disparity finally gave way.

What most people thought would be a total embarrassment Saturday against Texas was one of the most exciting games GW has played in the tournament’s eight-year history. As time passed and GW remained in the lead, the buzz in the MCI Center grew. T.J. Thompson earned his SportsCenter highlight, putting on a show against probable All-American T.J. Ford, and GW’s freshmen played like they had been there before.

Most were probably waiting for GW to crumble, but it didn’t happen. The Colonials stayed in the game until the end and most importantly played well enough to beat the No. 2 team in the country. That’s a team with a future. That’s a loss that makes a statement.

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