Earlier this week, GW head coach Karl Hobbs stressed the importance of his men’s basketball team getting off to a quick start Wednesday night. On the road, he wanted the Colonials to control the tempo early in order to avoid an deficit similar to the one they faced during Saturday’s loss to Massachusetts.
The Colonials (12-3, 4-1 Atlantic 10) were able to jump out to a slim early lead but needed a late-game push to put away La Salle, 84-66, in Philadelphia.
“I still thought it took a while to get ourselves going,” Hobbs said. “I thought we started off pretty well but then we made a couple threes and we had to make another run.”
Junior Mike Hall, who registered a double double (13 points and 11 rebounds), said the Colonials’ inability to dominate early was partially due to the Explorers’ intense play.
As a team that has been nationally ranked this season, the Colonials now have a target on their backs. La Salle (5-10, 1-3 A-10) kept things competitive early. Despite building a 13-point lead in the first, the Explorers fought back to cut the GW lead to 39-35 at the half.
“We just have to come into the game with a mindset that a lot of teams are looking to make their season off a win from us,” Hall said. “That’s the way we used to be in the A-10 and that’s the way that we are now being looked at. We have to realize that teams are coming out gunning for us.”
The Colonials could not extend their lead past single digits for the majority of the second half, and with 7:02 left, La Salle cut the GW advantage to 65-59. However, the Colonials responded with a 17-2 run, including three breakaway lay-ins that opened up a 21-point lead with 2:23 left.
Darnell Harris’ 21 points paced La Salle while Jermaine Thomas registered 15 in the loss. The A-10’s leading scorer, Steven Smith, only scored 14 points against a tight GW defense.
GW continued its well-balanced scoring, with five players in double figures. Junior Omar Williams scored 13 points, while sophomore Carl Elliott went 4-for-6 from the floor for 12 points. Sophomore J.R. Pinnock continued his strong play with 11 points in the win.
The Colonials were able to significantly improve their offensive production, shooting 54.1 percent from the field compared to La Salle’s 42.9 percent.
GW hits the road on Saturday to face A-10 rival Richmond. In their last match-up, the Spiders beat GW at the Smith Center on Feb. 28, 2004, thwarting the Colonials’ bid for a perfect home season.
“I think it will be tough,” Hobbs said. “They had us last year and we will have to fight hard this year.”
In the wake of Saturday’s loss to Massachusetts, the Colonials are not ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since early December.