Freshmen are not supposed to make shots like that.
No one is supposed to make shots like that. Twenty-five foot jumpers are not supposed to be made, let alone attempted. But Xavier rookie Stanley Burrell never got that memo.
As a result, the GW men’s basketball team’s slide continued Tuesday night. Facing a two-point deficit with less than one second on the clock, Burrell connected on a fadeaway three-pointer to give the Musketeers a 66-65 win over the Colonials in front of 4,648 fans at the Smith Center. The rainbow, launched from well beyond the arc, pushed the mute button on the small arena that had been rocking all night.
GW has now dropped two games in a row, and three out of its last four.
A lack of effort, coach Karl Hobbs said, was not the problem for the Colonials (12-5, 4-3 Atlantic 10) against Xavier (9-7, 3-3 A-10). The game was evenly matched, as no team held a lead greater than eight points all night. In the end, he said his team did what it was supposed to do as the clock ticked down.
“At the end of the game, you ask your players to put themselves in position to win,” Hobbs said. “And we were in position to win the basketball game.”
The Colonials made several plays to put themselves in great position down the stretch.
With the score tied at 63 with less than a minute to go, J.R. Pinnock’s acrobatic block of what looked to be an easy Burrell fast break lay-up preserved the tie. Then, after a Pinnock turnover, Elliott made a quick steal and on the next possession, his nifty bank shot put GW up by two. On the ensuing Xavier possession, sophomore Justin Cage turned the ball over – giving the Colonials a chance to seal the game.
But with 15 seconds left, Dedrick Finn fouled GW senior T.J. Thompson. Instead of icing it, the guard missed the front end of the one-and-one. Xavier’s Keith Jackson grabbed the rebound, coach Sean Miller called a 30-second timeout and Burrell’s dagger came soon after.
“I was saying, ‘Come on T.J. you have to miss one of those for us,'” Burrell said. “I couldn’t believe he missed it … It worked out real good for us.”
GW played tough defense in the closing seconds, but when Xavier’s attempt to dump the ball into the low post failed, two converging Colonials’ efforts to reach the rookie were futile.
“The arc that (Burrell) had on the ball I knew it had the chance to go in, and the shot went in,” Hobbs said. “I thought we had it defended pretty well. The thing I told the guys is the one thing we can’t give up is a three.”
Burrell, who said he just hoped to hit the front of the rim, called it “a lucky shot.”
With 0.3 seconds left, the Colonials were out of options. Sophomore J.R. Pinnock’s half court shot clanged off the rim after the buzzer sounded, and GW dropped a full game behind first-place Dayton in the A-10 West.
Thompson, who appeared to be favoring the knee he injured during last Saturday’s loss to Richmond, said he did not pay attention to Burrell’s comments at the line. The senior, who scored five points on 1-for-6 shooting, said he will have an MRI Friday to assess the condition of his knee.
However, he did not blame his struggles or missed free throws on his injury. “There’s no excuse for that,” Thompson said. “I thought I played through (the injury) pretty well.”
Joining Thompson on the injured-but-playing list was forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who played a solid game (team-high 14 points, 8 rebounds) despite a broken nose. The junior got hurt during the Colonials’ Jan. 15 loss to Massachusetts and played with a mask against Richmond. But the protective facewear limited his visibility and he decided to play without it Tuesday.
“They were banged up, I didn’t even know T.J. was going to play today,” Hobbs said. “I told him to warm up as hard as you can then come back upstairs and let me know if you can go or not. Pops is still dealing with his injury.”
Mensah-Bonsu’s energetic play was one of the highlights for GW. Two early dunks revved the crowd and helped the Colonials jump out to a 12-7 lead six and a half minutes into the game. But Xavier did not waver, fighting off several GW runs before the Colonials went on a 10-7 spurt in the final five minutes of the half to take a 36-31 lead at the break.
The Musketeers’ zone defense frustrated GW all game, especially at the beginning of the second. GW came out cold after the break, scoring only six points in the first seven minutes of the half. While the Colonials struggled shooting the ball, Xavier went on a 12-6 run to take a 48-42 lead.
However, GW responded with a 10-2 run to take a 52-50 lead with 8:16 left. From then on, the game went back and forth (there were 13 ties or lead changes the rest of the way) before Burrell’s final trey.
GW shot 47.3 percent on the night but scored only 65 points, more than 15 points below their season average (80.2 points per game). In order to start playing like a ranked team again, Hobbs said his team needs to eliminate mental breakdowns and cut down on turnovers (17 Tuesday).
“We kind of have the bull’s-eye on us,” he said. “Our margin of error is real thin.”
Hobbs’ squad will look to get back on track against A-10 West rival Dayton on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Smith Center.