When Red Auerbach coached the Boston Celtics, opponents spoke about a mysterious aura in the Boston Garden, half-jokingly referring to a tiny leprechaun that the late GW alumnus put on the opponent’s rim to knock out the ball.
After he was honored by a pre-game moment of silence, Auerbach may have posthumously turned his attention to helping his alma mater Sunday at the Verizon Center against Virginia Tech in the BB&T Classic.
With Virginia Tech up one point with 10 seconds left in the game, Hokies’ senior Collins Coleman rose to dunk the ball and squash GW’s hopes of winning the game. The ball rimmed out and after two free throws with seven seconds left from senior guard Carl Elliott, GW emerged with a 63-62 win.
The win extends the Colonials’ BB&T winning streak to four games.
Elliott did what he always seems to do: come up with big plays at the end of games. He calmly drained two free throws with 7.1 seconds left to give GW the lead, then held his follow-through all the way down the court.
He brought his hand down in time to knock the ball away from a driving Virginia Tech player on the ensuing possession and help prevent the Hokies from scoring on the final inbounds play.
“Carl has a great feel for the moment,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said. “He’s got to carry us in the sense of leadership and do a little bit of everything. I thought tonight he really did that and he’s got to continue to do that because at the end of the day, the game will always come down to him with the ball.”
Fortunately for Hobbs and his program, Elliott thrives with the ball in his hands late, and Sunday was no exception. After being fouled on a drive, he seemed unfazed by a timeout and an official’s stoppage of play.
A loss could have hurt GW’s chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, something the team can not afford coming off a 20-point loss at Providence College last weekend.
“Our confidence is through the roof right now,” Elliott said, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “We have a lot of young guys, so we need that.”
Hobbs said he stressed offensive rebounds after Providence grabbed 26 of them Nov. 26.
“Every day, every second, every minute,” Hobbs said of his emphasis on rebounding during practice last week. Virginia Tech only had six offensive boards even though GW was forced to play a small lineup at times due to foul trouble in the frontcourt.
GW had four players in double figures, including Regis Koundjia (10 points), who also had 11 rebounds. Koundjia was effective off the dribble in the first half by using his size and speed to get good looks. He seemed to toe the line between aggressive and reckless, but when shots are falling his body-sacrificing style comes off as selfless, not selfish.
“Regis was tremendous,” Hobbs said. “We need him to do so many things – I just hope he doesn’t wear down by the end of the season.”
If Koundjia does make it to the end of the season in one piece, the team may point to this game in early December, when it caught all the right breaks at the right time, as a turning point. Then, they might thank the program’s late patriarch for calling in another favor.