WEB UPDATE: After scare in West Virginia, Colonials prepare for Saint Louis and rest of the A-10

Posted Monday, Jan. 9, 1:59 p.m. During the GW men’s basketball team’s 79-73 overtime victory over Marshall in Huntington, W. Va., Saturday, head coach Karl Hobbs said he looked over to assistant coach Darrell Brooks and asked a question that basketball fans nationwide seemed to be pondering.

“I said, ‘Who scheduled this game?'” Hobbs said Monday morning. “Games are tough for us to get. It’s really tough, we wanted to try to get as many home games as possible. Students pay $45,000 a year and they deserve to see their basketball team. Marshall was a TV game and we thought we’d go out there and play.”

Whether fans agree with that sentiment will linger until Selection Sunday in March. And after compiling a 10-1 record, aspects of the No. 19/20 Colonials’ game still worry Hobbs.

Following the Colonials’ sole loss at North Carolina State, the fifth-year coach said his team was not executing the game plan the way they hoped. Despite the win on Saturday night, Hobbs said he is still concerned about finishing plays.

“We went through probably about 12 minutes where we couldn’t score a basket,” Hobbs said. “That’s still an area of concern and where we have to improve.”

But with GW down 12 points with four minutes remaining, the Colonials had an intangible that got them the victory.

“We showed toughness down the stretch,” Hobbs said. “We had to pick up our defense. I think that was one of the very few games where our experience really paid off for us.”

Now that the Colonials have played their last out-of-conference road game, they will dive into their Atlantic 10 schedule against Saint Louis at the Smith Center on Jan. 11. Their first conference game was Jan. 4, a win over Temple in Philadelphia.

The Saint Louis Billikens appear to be having problems stringing together a streak of any kind. Although they’ve hung tight with losses by 12 and three points respectively to No. 23 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga, Saint Louis dropped games to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Hawaii. The Billikens opened their A-10 schedule with a 60-58 win over St. Bonaventure on Jan. 3 in Missouri.

In preparing for GW, Saint Louis head coach Brian Soderberg said he sees similarities to another national power his team used to face in the now-depleted Conference USA.

“It’s a huge challenge that reminds me for preparing for Louisville,” Soderberg said of getting ready for GW. “They start three seniors and two juniors. When you do that, that’s a recipe for success. When you combine that with athletic and length, it’s a fair thing to compare them to Louisville. They could stretch from sideline to sideline. The thing that most impresses me is how hard Karl’s got them playing. They seem to play very, very hard. I’m very impressed. I think they deserve the national ranking they have.”

With only one senior, Saint Louis’ squad is not nearly as experienced as the Colonials, but two bright spots stand out in the eyes of Hobbs and other coaches in the A-10. Junior Ian Vouyoukas, a 6-foot-10 center, dominates the inside. Vouyoukas averages 15 points per game along with 8.8 rebounds and 27 total blocks.

Tommie Liddell, a freshman guard from Illinois, is averaging 11.6 points per game with 6.1 rebounds. Hobbs cited the team’s versatility as a strength.

“They are a very tough team,” Hobbs said. “(Vouyoukas) is tough as nails. We haven’t seen a guy like that in our league that’s very skilled and can score inside and kick it out. They surround him with a lot of skilled perimeter guys. Liddell is a terrific player. He is creative with the ball. They keep you off balance with their perimeter game.”

A strong point of the Colonials’ game is their ability to push the ball and wear down their opponents. Hobbs does not know if that strategy will click in the Saint Louis game.

“They don’t mind getting up and down a little bit,” Hobbs said. “(Liddell is) a dangerous guy in transition. He’s always under control. If you don’t pick him up early, he’ll knock down that midrange shot. We need to contain them and not let them get out to a quick start.”

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