RICHMOND, Va. – Another GW men’s basketball game, another win, another goal accomplished.
GW tied the school record with its 14th straight win Saturday evening, a 64-51 victory over Richmond, in which the No. 6 Colonials never trailed. The win also marked the first time the Colonials (22-1, 12-0 Atlantic 10) have won at the Robins Center since the 1979-80 season.
Sophomore Maureece Rice went seven-for-nine from the floor and scored 16 points for the Colonials, who showed that they were capable of winning a game in which the pace was more half-court than track meet.
In a matchup of the A-10’s best offense (GW) and defense (Richmond), GW’s aggressive defense was the one forcing its opponent to rush shots and passes. Richmond only turned the ball over seven times, a significant improvement over the 21 they had in the two teams’ last meeting Feb. 5, but never looked comfortable against the GW press.
“I thought it was a very well-played game,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said. “I thought it was played well from the standpoint that both teams were trying to force their style and will on each other. We were fortunate enough to make some key baskets and make some key stops. Even though we didn’t force a lot of turnovers, I felt we were able to convert them into baskets at the most opportune times.”
In their next contest, the Colonials are set to host the resurgent La Salle Explorers on Wednesday. La Salle, which only two years ago was wracked by scandal and was considered a perennial A-10 bottom-dweller, enjoys a 17-7 record overall and is 9-4 in conference play. They also have the reigning A-10 co-player of the year, Steven Smith, who as of Tuesday was leading the league in scoring at 19.6 points per game.
“They’re having an outstanding season,” Hobbs said. “They kind of remind me of us last year. They’re winning the games they’re supposed to, they’re winning some games on the road, they have a little winning streak going right now, they have arguably the best player in the league right now, depending on who you talk to, and Steve Smith is a major concern.”
On offense Saturday against Richmond, GW was quick to get out in the open court after a Spider basket, scoring 12 fast breaks while preventing Richmond from scoring any points on their own fast breaks.
Rice scored most of his points in GW’s deliberate half-court set, including two highlight-reel-worthy baskets.
“One thing they don’t get enough credit for is that they’re a very good passing team,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said. “They share the ball with one another and they’re skillful. I think everybody sees how fast they are and how athletic they are and they kind of underestimate how skillful they are. The guy Rice comes off the bench and he’s probably the best scorer on the floor most times he’s in the game.”
Junior Carl Elliot started off the game slowly, going scoreless in the first half, but came up clutch after Richmond went on an 8-0 run to cut GW’s lead to seven. Elliot scored 10 points in just more than three minutes to seal the game for the Colonials.
“Maureece is a flat-out scorer and I try to distribute the ball,” Elliot said. “I think we play off each other very well. If he’s not feeling it, I may be feeling it. If I’m not then he might be.”
Senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored 10 points and had nine rebounds for the Colonials. Richmond senior Jermaine Bucknor led all scorers with 23 points in a losing effort, going six-for-eight from three-point territory.
The win brings GW within four games of the first undefeated regular season in the A-10 since St. Joseph’s in 2003-2004. At 22-1, they now possess the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games, and with a win against La Salle Wednesday will break the school record set by the 1935-6 team.
GW’s victories this season at Richmond’s Robins Center, Xavier’s Cintas Center and St. Joseph’s Alumni Fieldhouse were the firsts at those buildings for every current player and Hobbs, in his fifth year as Colonials coach.
With those goals met, along with the best start in school history and a top-10 national ranking, Hobbs and his players are not ready to publicly concede that this team has larger postseason aspirations than simply making the NCAA Tournament.
“Hopefully we can keep everybody focused and keep everybody on one page,” Hobbs said. “One of the things we wanted to do was to win in some of these buildings we haven’t won in. Now we’re trying to defend our Atlantic 10 championship; then we want to be playing our best basketball come Atlantic 10 Tournament time.”