What an emotional win.
After an extremely hard-fought game, GW defeated local rival Maryland Monday to claim hoops supremacy in the District. After enduring weeks of criticism that GW was not good enough to beat marquee teams because of its perceived soft schedule, coach Karl Hobbs and his team officially asserted themselves as one of the country’s top college basketball programs. Overall, there were many aspects of the game in which Colonials fans should take comfort.
Winning games the hard way
Last year, GW executed its game plan to near perfection en route to its BB&T Classic victories over Michigan State and Maryland. One almost had the feeling that last year, perfection was needed to pull out those wins. This year, however, the Colonials showed incredible grit in their victory over the Terps. The Colonials shot a paltry 39 percent from the floor and 27 percent from behind the three-point arc. Despite their shooting woes, the Colonials found a way to win. This came from an incredible effort on the defensive end and clutch free-throw shooting by junior point guard Carl Elliott.
GW also responded incredibly well. After the Colonials were up by as many as nine points early in the second half, Maryland’s senior standout Chris McCray hit three consecutive three-pointers to even the score at 51 with 12 minutes remaining. GW responded with three consecutive baskets. After an Ikene Ibekwe layup closed the Colonials’ lead to 63-62 with 5:24 remaining in the game, GW responded with a 10-3 run that distanced themselves from Maryland for good. Last year, we would have expected the team to fold in these situations. Not with this year’s Colonials. The manner in which the team responded to these situations proves they are ready to compete at an elite level with any team in the country.
With 12 minutes to go in the game, four of GW’s top players had four fouls. While Pops Mensah-Bonsu sat for most of the second half with foul trouble, sophomore Maureece Rice, Elliott and senior Omar Williams played the rest of the game without fouling out.
That the Colonials did not fold and go away when the foul trouble hit is a testament to this team’s maturity. They were still able to maintain their defensive intensity in spite of the consequences their fouling out would have on the game. The discipline the Colonials exerted in this game will be critical in any potential NCAA or conference tournament situations.
Rice can flat out play
The Philadelphia prep legend proved Monday night that his next 2.5 years in Foggy Bottom are going to be special. In the team’s first four games, Rice showed flashes of his highly touted offensive skills. Against Maryland, he played exceptionally well on offense, leading the team with 19 points. More importantly, Rice played lockdown defense and brought the ball up the court with tremendous poise.
Look for Rice to continue to develop into a gifted player at GW. The guy has a nasty crossover dribble, can score in traffic, hit the outside shot and run the point well already. As he learns more about the game, watch out. He could be the consistent scorer GW has lacked in the absence of TJ Thompson.
Rice is sure to see an increase in playing time now that Hobbs knows both he and Elliott can co-exist on the floor. GW’s three-guard rotation of Rice, Elliott and Pinnock is one of the most explosive and gifted units in the country.
Hobbs runs a short bench
In an uncharacteristic move, Hobbs ditched his usual rotational pattern and only seven guys played double-digit minutes. Hobbs routinely trumpets his team’s depth as its primary strength, so it was unusual to see him going away from it duringduring the game. Clearly, however, it turned out to be exactly the right move.
For GW to have a special season, its best players need to be out on the court. While freshmen Montrell McDonald and Rob Diggs should get some developmental minutes in their freshmen seasons, Hobbs should continue to primarily play his five starters and Rice off the bench for a lion’s share of the minutes.
Hall is a rock
Is it getting repetitive for me to talk about Mike Hall here? His game Monday night spoke for itself. While his entire team suffered from foul trouble, Hall played 39 minutes – including the entire second half – and posted yet another double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
While not receiving the draft buzz of Mensah-Bonsu or Danilo Pinnock, Hall – with his combination of defense, rebounding and improved offensive output – will make the best professional basketball player on the Colonials’ roster.
GW returns to trap
After being mysteriously absent for GW’s first four games, Hobbs’ trademark full-court press was employed with maximum effectiveness on Monday. The Colonials frustrated Maryland’s inexperienced ball handlers into committing 25 turnovers. Countless Terp passes were heaved out of bounds. The trap also prevented Maryland from setting up their offense and made them rush to take bad shots.
While everyone knows the Colonials can score on anyone, it was incredibly important to see that GW can also be a shutdown defensive team.