AMHERST, Mass. – First, he vomited. Then he took medication and slept. Then, finally, Chris Monroe made history.
After missing the team’s film session and pre-game shoot around with an unspecified illness, the senior became the GW men’s basketball team’s all-time leading scorer with 23 points in the Colonials’ 85-74 win at Massachusetts Monday night in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The win was GW’s first on the road in conference play all season and sends the Colonials (12-16) to Dayton, Ohio for a quarterfinal match-up against No. 10 (Associated Press) Xavier (24-4) Thursday at 12:05 p.m.
“I decided he was going to play this morning,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said of Monroe, who has never missed a game in his collegiate career. “First time I saw him throw up, that’s a good sign. They tell me (Boston Celtics Hall-of-Famer) Bill Russell used to throw up before every game, and everybody knows I’m a Boston guy, so I thought that was a great sign.”
There were no signs of Monroe’s illness on the court, however, as the guard broke Joe Holup’s 47-year old record by one point on two free throws with 38 seconds left in the game, setting the new record at 2,227 points. He also pulled down nine rebounds and added four assists, playing all but two minutes of the game.
After Hobbs described his state of health, a seemingly unfazed Monroe said, “I just need to get some sleep.”
He also played down the scoring record and said he was happy it would not be a distraction going into Thursday’s game.
“Now, a lot of things can be put aside,” he said. “(The record) is great, and now everything is focused on what’s in front of us, and that’s Xavier.”
Monroe was one of four Colonials to score in double figures in a convincing win over a UMass program that had won 11 straight A-10 Tournament openers and six straight games against GW. Freshman Mike Hall finished with a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds.
Anthony Anderson led the Minutemen (11-18) with 20 points and senior Jackie Rogers finished the last outing of his career with 19 points, 11 of which came during the first four minutes of the game.
“We thought the key to the game was to try and contain (Anderson),” Hobbs said. “If you would have told me he’d score 20 points tonight, I probably would have figured that we’d lose by four or five points.”
With Rogers having his way in the paint, UMass jumped out to an early seven-point lead before GW forced the Minutemen into a three-point shooting contest midway through the half. Massachusetts would go on to set a school record with 31 three-point attempts in the game, but connected on just nine.
After the Minutemen knocked down three straight shots from behind the arc, the Colonials returned the favor with three in a row of their own. The last, by sophomore T.J. Thompson, gave GW its first lead of the game, 39-37, with 3:32 remaining before halftime.
A buzzer-beater by Massachusetts’ Michael Lasme from near mid-court tied the game at 45 after hot first-half shooting performances by both teams. UMass shot 57 percent from the field in the first half but was held under 36 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. GW, meanwhile, stayed consistent and shot 51 percent in the game.
“We challenged ourselves in the locker room at halftime, and I just wrote on the board, ’57 percent,’ and put on the board what they average,” Hobbs said. “And then I asked the guys, ‘Do you want to go to Dayton?’ There was nothing more as a coach I could do at that point, and their response was, ‘Yes, we want to go to Dayton.'”
The response was evident from the start of the second half, as GW reeled off five straight points and never trailed again. Key jump shots from Anderson kept the GW lead to single digits until around the 10-minute mark, when Monroe started to close in on the scoring record.
Ahead by seven with just over two minutes remaining, Thompson pulled up and hit a long three-pointer that sent many of the 2,420 fans at the Mullins Center heading for the exits. The point guard finished with 16 points and five assists.
“I thought at the end we showed some maturity,” Hobbs said. “About five games ago, the minute we got the lead, guys would have started high-fiving, smiling and bumping chests, then you’d look up and there would still be eight minutes left in the game. (Tonight) they didn’t do that, and that was really nice to see.”