After winning its first four games of the season, the GW men’s basketball team had a chance to jump out to its best start in 11 years Wednesday night against Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. But on two key possessions in the final minute of the game, the Colonials let the ball and their undefeated streak slip away, losing 80-77.
GW’s 4-1 start is still the team’s best in three years under head coach Karl Hobbs. But the team’s sloppy play in the last minute and inability to hold on to a double-digit second-half lead gives the Colonials plenty to work on heading into this weekend’s BB&T Classic at the MCI Center.
After watching big leads slip away in wins over the same Appalachian State team and Florida International University last week, GW head coach Karl Hobbs said on Monday that his team still needs to work on putting opponents away.
“Teams are going to make runs on you,” he said. “We just need to take care of the ball. A large part of that has been us losing our focus and concentration at times and allowing teams to get back into the games.”
All three of those factors went wrong on Wednesday. Chris McFarland led Appalachian State back into the game with 28 points, and with a one-point game in the last minute, junior T.J. Thompson (team-high 22 points) and freshman Carl Elliott turned the ball over on consecutive possessions. With just seconds remaining, senior Greg Collucci clanked a three-pointer off the side of the backboard and GW missed a heave at the buzzer.
Red Auerbach Colonial Classic
Friday-Saturday, Nov. 28-29
For the 10th year in a row, the Colonials captured the annual Red Auerbach Colonial Classic at the Smith Center with wins over Appalachian State and the College of William and Mary.
GW improved to 4-0 on the year and 20-0 in the classic’s history after defeating William and Mary, 73-57, in the tournament final Saturday night.
The Colonials were well-balanced on offense, as four players finished in double figures.
Saturday’s game was a clear sign that a deep roster is helping GW this year. The Colonials’ bench outscored the Tribe’s bench 49-13, and not one GW player logged more than 28 minutes.
Young players in particular had key roles in the win. Freshman guard Ricky Lucas scored seven of his 11 points during a key 17-2 run in the second half that gave the Colonials a 51-39 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.
Fellow freshman J.R. Pinnock scored 15 points and tournament Most Valuable Player Mike Hall had 13 points and 13 rebounds, notching his fifth career double-double before halftime. Hall helped the Colonials build a 10-point lead at the break with a variety of inside hoops.
In the first game of the classic, Hall had another strong game for GW, scoring 18 points in a 76-62 victory over Appalachian State. He sunk two key free throws to extend the GW lead to eight points with less than three minutes to play, sealing the game for the Colonials. Junior point guard T.J. Thompson also had 18 points, and freshman guard Carl Elliott added a season-high nine assists.
Tuesday, Nov. 25
GW 76, Florida International 67
For the first 28 minutes last Tuesday night, the GW men’s basketball team showed a crowd of almost 3,500 everything they could become this year, building a 20-point lead over Florida International University in GW’s home opener at the Smith Center. But over the next seven minutes, they reminded fans of everything they still are – young and inexperienced – as that 20-point lead dwindled to just three.
The Colonials were able to hold on, though, as they made key free throws down the stretch to beat the Golden Panthers, 76-67. After the game, the team’s near-collapse was as much a focus as the actual victory.
Hobbs attributed his team’s struggles to two factors.
“I think it’s (because it is) early (in the) season and I think it’s a little bit of our youth,” he said. “And probably a little bit of that youth is us being daring when we don’t need to be. We need to have a little bit more poise.”
T.J. Thompson, who had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go along with four assists and four steals, said the team needs to keep its composure after taking big leads.
“We got caught up in being up so much and we kind of thought the game was over,” he said. “And us being young and (thinking) the game is over, some people look at it as showtime, so basically we thought we had the game (won) and weren’t focusing on putting in away.”