There was a rare moment of respite for Karl Hobbs Saturday afternoon. The GW men’s basketball team just laid an 80-63 beating on St. Bonaventure at Smith Center after losing to Massachusetts three days earlier in Amherst, Mass.
When asked if he was happy with his team’s execution against St. Bonaventure, Hobbs thought for a second and came up with a somewhat rare response.
“Yeah, I guess I was,” he said. “Overall, I thought we executed and took the shots we needed to take. I thought in the last game we took some ill-advised shots and this game I thought we did better with our shot selection.”
The peaceful feeling that Hobbs seemed to enjoy for a few minutes was destroyed when the conversation turned to what lies ahead.
Richmond. Charlotte. Saint Joseph’s. Rhode Island. Dayton. All these games are before Feb. 1 and only two are in the District.
“This is the toughest stretch of the schedule,” Hobbs said.
The win over the listless Bonnies extended GW’s (11-4, 2-1 Atlantic 10) home-court winning streak to 22 games. It’s the fifth-best mark in the nation, but the six games this month make up a significant portion of this season’s A-10 schedule, beginning with Richmond Wednesday night in Virginia.
The Colonials are 3-4 outside of Washington this season and serious questions linger for this GW squad as the second semester begins. Senior guard Carl Elliott, one of the team’s three captains, has been performing inconsistently. Senior big men Dokun Akingbade and Regis Koundjia seem equally shaky, despite a strong showing against the Bonnies Saturday. There are few options on the bench and even fewer players experienced in going into hostile gyms and pulling out wins.
Most alarmingly, perhaps, is Elliott’s offensive disappearance. After beginning the season with games of 25 and 29 points, Elliott has scored in double figures only twice since Dec. 12. Elliott missed 26 free throws all last season but has already missed 11 this season, including three against St. Bonaventure.
“He got out of the gate very, very well and scoring has never been Carl’s forte,” Hobbs said. “He’s a point guard and now we’re asking him to score a little bit more. Now I think he’s thinking about it too much. So I said to him ‘Carl, you miss a shot, the sniper is not going to shoot you, he’s going to shoot me.'”
Against Richmond Wednesday night at Robins Center, the Colonials will undoubtedly need leadership and scoring. GW has only won once in Richmond since Hobbs has had the reins.
Richmond’s style will likely give GW problems. Chris Mooney coaches the Spiders and previously coached at Air Force, where he installed the slowed-down Princeton offense. GW’s 66-52 loss to Air Force Dec. 28 showed that this offense is difficult for the Colonials to defend.
“We’re going to have to try to make it an up-tempo game and really try to press them and take them out of their rhythm,” Hobbs said. “When they get comfortable running their offense it’s very, very tough to defend.”
Ensuring that the Spiders, who are led by freshman Dan Geriot and Valparaiso transfer Oumar Sylla, don’t get the lead early will be important, Hobbs said.
“They really play very well when they have leads,” Hobbs said. “We really have to make sure we come out, and those first four minutes might be the key to the ball game down there.”
The 55 percent free throw shooting in the past two games, and only two days before the Colonials leave Foggy Bottom, is also a cause for concern.
“I’m concerned because some pretty good free throw shooters are the guys that are missing them, and those are the guys that are going to have the ball at the end of ball games,” Hobbs said.
For Hobbs, the easy feeling never lasts for long.