For the fourth time this season, the GW men’s basketball team showed that it has the talent to compete with the top teams in the country. But once again, it lacked the maturity to execute when the game was on the line.
Sophomore T.J. Thompson scored his fifth straight point with nine minutes left to put GW ahead of No. 19 Xavier 54-53, but the lead would be GW’s last. The Musketeers responded with a 9-0 run and went on to win 80-68 in front of 3,616 at the Smith Center Tuesday night
GW Head Coach Karl Hobbs credited the Colonials’ defense for keeping them in the game but also noted GW’s failure to execute in the closing minutes, as Xavier finished the game on a 27-14 run.
“I think we were up by one and Pops (Mensah-Bonsu) got a big time rebound, but unfortunately we lost the ball,” he said. “Somehow the whistle blew and it didn’t go our way, and that was the difference in the game. That killed the momentum, and from that point on it was a real struggle to get over the hump.”
Senior Chris Monroe led the Colonials (8-11, 2-6 Atlantic 10) with 17 points, including 13 in the first half, but did not get to the foul line once. Monroe, who leads the Atlantic 10 in both free throws made and attempted, had not played a game without a trip to the line in nearly two years. Thompson added 14 points for GW and freshmen Omar Williams and Pops Mensah-Bonsu had 13 each.
Xavier (16-4, 7-1 A-10) had a balanced offensive attack with five players in double figures. Playing in just his second game after returning from a broken foot, Lionel Chalmers led the way with 17 points off the bench.
“Chalmers had his warm-up game against Richmond to get ready for us,” Hobbs said. “And of course he came in here full steam, ready to go.”
Preseason All-American David West had 13 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for the Musketeers, breaking former Colonial Mike Brown’s (’85) A-10 career rebounding record (1,166) by reaching 1,173 rebounds. West said he was only told about the record the morning before the game.
“It’s a standard,” West said. “Somebody’s going to have to break it, so that’s always good.”
GW trailed just 31-30 at halftime after shooting 56 percent from the field, but the Musketeers opened the second half on a 12-2 run. Throughout the game, whenever the Colonials made the score close or took a lead, Xavier was able to answer with a run of their own.
GW clawed its way back into the game and cut the lead to 45-43 on a powerful dunk by Williams with just over 14 minutes to go. Williams drove the lane and dunked the ball in the face of Xavier’s West, earning the No. 2 spot on ESPN’s SportsCenter “Top 10” highlights later in the evening.
“I thought Omar was a very tough match-up for them,” Hobbs said. “He did some things that they weren’t able to answer. He made a terrific athletic play when he dunked the ball over West.”
After Thompson’s spurt gave GW the lead, Xavier started to put the game away. The Musketeers opened up an eight-point lead with six and a half minutes remaining when West hit a pair of free throws.
GW answered with five straight points, but again, the Musketeers went on a run. This time they scored the next 12 points of the game, and GW was unable to get any closer than 12 the rest of the way.
The Colonials are back in action Saturday as they travel to Kingston, R.I. to take on Rhode Island at 7:30 p.m.
-Brian Costa contributed to this report.