DAYTON, Ohio – With the game tied at 59 and the clock ticking down Saturday afternoon, the situation looked bleak. Dayton had the ball, seemingly poised to take the game’s last shot and re-capture the Atlantic 10 West lead.
But GW sophomore Carl Elliott did not let that happen. As the Flyers reversed the ball, the league leader in steals abandoned his man, snatched the ball and launched a 30-foot running three-pointer with less than one second remaining to down Dayton 62-59 in front of 13,409 stunned fans at UD Arena.
“It had the right arc, but I just couldn’t tell if it was going in or not,” said GW coach Karl Hobbs, whose team overcame 22 turnovers to defeat the Flyers in Ohio for the first time since 1999. “I looked at the clock and I knew he had gotten it off in plenty of time. I told the officials, ‘It’s not even close.'” After a quick check on the monitor, the officials confirmed Hobbs’ stance, and the coach left the court with tears in his eyes.
Dayton coach Brian Gregory said he had never seen anything like it during his coaching career.
“This was obviously a disappointing way to lose the game,” he said. “But it was a battle for 40 minutes between two very good, very talented teams.”
After last-second losses to Massachusetts and Xavier, GW was able to come out on top Saturday. With the win, the Colonials (18-6, 10-4 Atlantic 10) move into sole possession of first place in the A-10 West in front of second-place Dayton (16-9, 9-5 A-10).
With GW trailing 59-54 with less than three minutes left, the game looked out of reach for the Colonials. Then, as he had the whole game, junior Mike Hall (19 points, 10 rebounds) came to the rescue. With 2:39 remaining, the forward drained a three-pointer from the corner to cut the deficit to two points. After a defensive stop, senior T.J. Thompson (15 points) drained two free throws to tie the game at 59 with 1:22 left.
After another strong defensive stop, Hobbs set up an isolation play for Thompson, who back-rimmed a trey with 32 seconds remaining. Dayton, a team that GW beat on Jan. 21 at the Smith Center, had a chance to take the last shot. Dayton coach Brian Gregory called timeout to set up a play for Trent Meacham (five points), but Elliott’s steal/miracle shot combo ensued.
“This is our best win all season,” said a smiling Hobbs. “This was even better than Michigan State and Maryland because this was in the most difficult situations. Coming off the loss to Xavier and the enormity of this situation today and combined with the way we won it, this was a great win.”
The Colonials had control going into the second half, nursing a 35-26 lead after Thompson hit two foul shots as time expired in the first. The Flyers pulled to within four points early in the second before Thompson found his spot from the top of the key and drained a trey. Scott answered quickly with a three of his own as Dayton cut the lead to 46-43 with 12:23 remaining. Then, the Flyers caught fire, going on a 9-1 run to open up a 52-47 lead with 9:05 left.
But GW would not go away. Hall hit a jumper from the top of the key to bring the lead to three, and on the ensuing possession, junior Pops Mensah-Bonsu (nine points) hit a lay-up inside to cut the Dayton lead to 52-51 with 6:29 remaining.
Then, the Flyers turned up their defense, going on a 7-3 run to bring the score to 59-54 with two minutes left. At that point, Hall hit one of the biggest shots in the game.
“With that lineup in, nine out of ten times, T.J. would get that ball and I would be the decoy,” Hall said. Instead, they reversed roles, and Hall’s three cut set up GW’s improbable comeback.
The six-foot-eight-inch, 240-pound Hall had one of his best games as a Colonial, fighting for rebounds and muscling in for lay-ins whenever his team needed them.
Brian Roberts led the Flyers with 15 points. Norman Plummer had 10 points while Monty Scott chipped in with five for Dayton.
“This is as talented of a team as we play all year,” Hobbs said.
GW had no problem getting out of the gate early, jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead off four points from the line and a Mensah-Bonsu put-back. Dayton hung with the Colonials and was able to tie the game at 19 on a three-pointer by Brian Roberts, who had 13 first half points.
Then, the Colonials turned up their offense, outscoring Dayton 16-6 to close out the half and take a nine-point lead at intermission.
GW’s man-to-man defense was as good as it has been all year, holding the Flyers to 29.6 percent shooting from the floor in the first half. The Colonials shot 58.8 percent in that half en route to shooting 48.6 percent for the game.
The Colonials return to action on Tuesday night at the Smith Center at 7 p.m. when they host St. Joseph’s on senior night.