Posted: Thursday, March 11, 8 p.m. — DAYTON, Ohio– In the closing minutes of the GW men’s basketball team’s Atlantic 10 Tournament game against Rhode Island Thursday, junior T.J Thompson gave his coach, Karl Hobbs, a few words of advice.
“T.J. said, ‘Hey coach, I think we got this one. You can sit down now’,” Hobbs said. “I thought he had a lot of nerve to say that at that time but I had no choice but to smile.”
Hobbs had reason to smile, as the Colonials dismantled the Rams 79-50 at the U. Dayton Arena. The win propelled the Colonials (18-10) into the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since 1999.
Thompson, who struggled with his shot at the end of the regular season, seems to have responded well to Hobbs’s decision to bring him off the bench in the last two games. The junior guard had 14 points and six assists in 27 minutes of work.
“It’s the most difficult decision I’ve had to make at GW and (T.J.) has handled it marvelously,” Hobbs said. “I did it because I thought it would take pressure off him. It hasn’t diminished his play or his leadership role.”
GW will now face Xavier (21-10) Friday at 7:05 p.m. The Musketeers advanced to the semis by stunning No. 1 (AP) St. Joseph’s 87-67 in front of a raucous crowd of 10,667 Thursday.
Although Hobbs said earlier in the week he would look forward to facing the Hawks in the tournament, he did not sell Xavier short. The Musketeers beat the Colonials by 20 on March 3, over a month after GW blew them out at the Smith Center.
“We’ve got such a great deal of respect for Xavier,” Hobbs said. “They really have shown how cool they are. When their backs were against the wall, they’ve come together. They are experienced; they make it a very difficult team for us to play.”
The rivalry has been intense over the years, and players said Friday should be no different.
“It’s always a battle with them,” Thompson said. “The last couple years it’s gone down to the wire. I think it’s the match-up that we wanted. We get up for it; we always have good games against them except for the last one.”
Dozens of Xavier fans stormed the court after their team handed the Hawks their first loss of the season, but the building cleared out after that, leaving the arena mostly empty by halftime of the GW game.
Fans who did stick around watched the Colonials take control early. With the score tied at five, Hobbs’s squad went on a 17-5 run to go up 22-10 on the Rams (19-13). GW extended the lead to 48-28 at halftime and the lead never dropped below 20 points the rest of the way.
This week, Hobbs pointed out that teams need to get a little lucky to be successful in postseason tournaments. The Colonials got a break even before they took the floor Thursday.
Rhode Island’s leading scorer, Dawan Robinson, suffered back spasms Wednesday and only played four minutes against GW. The six-foot two guard scored 25 against the Colonials earlier when the two teams met during the regular season.
“We got a huge break today,” Hobbs said. “Everything in our game plan centered around how we were gonna stop Robinson.”
Without Robinson on the court, the Colonials played a balanced game, as three players finished in double figures. Thompson and freshman Carl Elliott each had 14 points and sophomore Pops Mensah-Bonsu went 9-for-10 from the line and scored 13 points.