For the third straight game, the Colonials’ hopes of earning their first win in the Atlantic 10 last night came down to the final minutes of the second half. But this time, it was GW that stepped it up when the game was on the line, snapping a six-game losing streak with a 74-68 win over St. Joseph’s at the Smith Center.
In a game that saw the lead change hands 20 times, GW took the only lead that mattered when sophomore T.J. Thompson beat Hawks guard Jameer Nelson to the basket for a game-winning lay-up with 29 seconds remaining. Up 70-68, the Colonials (7-10, 1-5 Atlantic 10) then hit four straight free throws to hold on for the win, their first of the new year. GW handed the Hawks (14-3, 5-2 A-10) just their third loss of the season and held leading scorer Nelson to just seven points.
“I told the guys at halftime, ‘we must win this for our fans,'” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said. “They’ve stuck with us all season, and there’s a lesson to be learned there: don’t give up on these young Colonials.”
Senior Chris Monroe led the Colonials with 24 points and eight rebounds, shooting 14-for-19 from the foul line. Freshman Omar Williams played a strong all-around game for GW, tallying 11 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals in a season-high 34 minutes.
After the game, Williams praised the leadership of Monroe, the team’s lone senior, for helping the team’s freshmen maintain their confidence during the losing streak.
“He’s as big of a presence as it can get,” Williams said. “Every time we put our heads down and get frustrated, he’s right there telling us to get focused and keep our heads up. He never gets down on us, he always picks us up and tells us the right thing to do.”
Monroe, who ran up into the student section to celebrate with fans after the game, said he fed off his teammates as much as they fed off him.
“My teammates see me slipping too and they pull me up, so we help each other,” Monroe said. “It just can’t be me being a leader out there, we were all leaders out there, and the freshmen were leaders too.”
After opening the game with an alley-oop dunk from Thompson, freshman Pops Mensah-Bonsu was limited to just 17 minutes with foul trouble. But the rookie did not go unnoticed with his reduced time, finishing with 13 points and five rebounds.
GW jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Hawks rallied to tie the game with just under 16 minutes left, taking a 31-29 halftime lead. The game remained close throughout the second half, with 15 ties and neither team leading by more than six until the final minute of the game.
That six-point advantage came for the Hawks when Brian Carroll hit three shots from behind the arc in a minute-and-a-half span late in the game, but GW kept its composure and closed the game on a 17-5 run over the last five minutes.
“The key to this game as opposed to last game is we took care of the basketball,” Hobbs said. “We talked about maintaining our focus for 40 minutes, and the proudest moment for me was when Carroll came down and made those three’s and we didn’t panic. That was a measure of growth for us.”
GW’s next game is Saturday at 4 p.m. against Duquesne at the Smith Center.