RICHMOND – It may not have been on-par with Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game” in the 1998 NBA Finals, but junior Maureece Rice’s clutch play during the GW men’s basketball team’s 63-58 win against Richmond was something special.
Rice, who has the flu and has not practiced much in the last two days, hit two shots down the stretch that gave the Colonials (12-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10) the win in a game where neither team led by more than eight. He calmly hit a jumper that gave GW the lead with 1:40 left, then followed it up with a basket off of his signature crossover, a key rebound, and two free throws that helped put the game out of reach. Richmond head coach Chris Mooney called Rice’s shot “huge.”
Dressed in a GW basketball hooded sweatshirt, it is hard for one to imagine that the person coughing in between words, eyes barely open, had been able to play 32 minutes of basketball.
“The fatigue was getting to me, but it was a close game and I knew we needed a bucket,” said Rice, who scored 10 points as one of five Colonials in double figures.
Rice’s backcourt brethren, senior Carl Elliott and freshman point guard Travis King, each contributed as well. Elliott quietly led the team with 14 points, but shot just 4-of-10 from the field.
Elliott and King combined for seven steals, using backcourt pressure to disrupt the young Richmond team and establish the tempo. King had three steals in 11 first-half minutes, scoring six fast break points against a Spider defense that only allows an average of 5.6 per game.
In a game where neither team could pull away, Hobbs said he thought the forced turnovers were crucial.
“The only thing that was keeping us in the game was that we were turning them over, getting some steals, then converting them into baskets,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said.
“Every play was such a big play because the game was so close,” he added. “(King’s) steals kind of kept the momentum in our favor because what we didn’t want to do was fall behind 10 or 12 points because of the way they play.”
In between Rice’s big shots, senior Dokun Akingbade took a charge that put an end to the teams trading baskets, a play Hobbs called “the difference in the game.” Akingbade also contributed on the offensive end, recording his second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, four of which came on offense. Hobbs said he challenged Akingbade to step up his play and the Maryland native responded by hitting jump shots as well as his usual baby hook.
The win was the second straight at Richmond for GW, who had failed to win in the Robbins Center in four previous tries during Hobbs’ tenure.
“Every game down here has been this type of ball game and I think it’s going to continue this way,” Hobbs said. “A year from now or two years from now, I don’t want to play them at all – I hope they get out of the league.”
Rice said he would continue to practice in hopes of “sweating out” the sickness before GW’s next game, Saturday against Charlotte at Smith Center. The game is a rematch of last year’s overtime win on Senior Day, which gave the Colonials their first ever undefeated A-10 season.
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