The GW men’s basketball team came into Saturday’s game against Richmond winners of five in a row, tied for first place in the Atlantic 10 West and one victory away from its first perfect home season in five years. But the Spiders shut down the streaking Colonials, defeating GW 75-67 in front of a loud sellout crowd of 5,252 at the Smith Center.
Despite losing to the Spiders last month, many believed GW had the upper hand, including students who arrived at the Smith Center over three hours early to secure a seat. But junior guard T.J. Thompson admitted the expectation to win was a little too much for the Colonials to handle.
“I think we started embracing success,” Thompson said. “Coach (Karl Hobbs) has been warning us all year, don’t embrace success. I think some of us just couldn’t handle it.”
The team’s relaxed mood was evident before the game even started, when the Colonials picked up a technical foul for dunking during warm-ups, which is against NCAA rules.
“We came in a little too loose,” said Thompson, who scored only eight points in the loss. “We usually play better when we’re underdogs and when we’re scared of the opponent. We came into this game lackadaisical.”
The Colonials (16-9, 10-4 A 10) dropped to 11-1 at home on the season and slid into second place in the A-10 West behind Dayton, which defeated La Salle Saturday. The loss also dealt a blow to GW’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
Hobbs said his squad simply lost to a better basketball team Saturday. He added that the Colonials are young and still learning what it takes to win important games down the stretch.
“We’re a team that’s very fragile to some degree because we’re still learning,” Hobbs said. “This is the first game we’ve played all year where the pressure was on us to win. And we’ve never been in that situation before.”
Despite the pressure they faced, the Colonials stayed with the Spiders for the majority of the game. But in the end, poor outside shooting doomed GW.
Thompson finished 0-for-8 from three-point range as the Colonials went 2-for-20 from behind the arc, an uncharacteristic performance for the second-best three-point shooting team in the A-10.
The Spiders (17-11, 9-6 A-10) took advantage, playing a 2-3 zone defense that collapsed on GW’s post players. This allowed open looks on the perimeter that the Colonials could not convert.
“They’re a much better shooting team than that,” Richmond head coach Jerry Wainwright said. “They’re very hard to guard. We were reaching in the hat to try and make up stuff.”
The Colonials had some success inside, as sophomore forward Mike Hall had 15 points and eight rebounds. Freshman guards J.R. Pinnock and Carl Elliott added 14 points apiece.
A key point came with the Colonials leading 57-54 with 7:58 left in the game. Sophomore forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu attempted to throw down one of his characteristic jams but the ball clanged off the rim, and just over a minute later Richmond tied the game at 57. The Spiders then went on a 15-5 run to extend their lead to 72-62 with 39 seconds left.
The first half was a see-saw affair. After GW jumped out to an early 15-5 lead, Richmond fought back to take a 31-26 lead with 3:08 left before the break. However, the Colonials ended the half on a 6-2 run to go into intermission trailing 32-31.
The Colonials will look to regroup against Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.