A lot has happened in the 770 days since the GW men’s basketball team last lost at the Smith Center.
Karl Hobbs, in his first job as head coach, architected the resurgence of a mid-major program and made this campus rock. He took a once-slumping program and turned it into a top-10 team before a horde of faithful fans who were behind him the whole way. An antiquated 5,000-seat urban gym that saw few fans during the 2001-2002 season is now considered one of the toughest places to play in college basketball.
But Saturday, a 24-game home winning streak – which Hobbs said was largely ignored by his team – was abused, smashed and snapped by Atlantic 10 rival Xavier in an 87-58 romp in front of an announced crowd of 4,848 and a national television audience in the 22nd Street building.
But Hobbs was unexpectedly calm after the loss, telling reporters that “the world is not over.” If his squad could win its next two games – against Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia and Temple at home – it would be in contention for the top spot in the conference for the second time this season.
“Win one more game, life changes a little bit,” Hobbs said. “Win two more games life really changes.”
The expectations Hobbs faces in Foggy Bottom are a little different than those of other schools, including his alma matter, the University of Connecticut.
“The great part about being the coach here at GW, no one is asking me to win the national championship here,” Hobbs said.
Within minutes of that statement’s publication on The Hatchet’s Web site, fans attacked Hobbs on an Internet message board and called for his resignation – but there is a sliver of solace in the loss. It’s a simple fact that illustrates how far this program has come: most of his squad has never experienced a prolonged losing streak, one that started Jan. 31 at Dayton, and losing a few games is a whole new cup of tea.
“This is a new experience for us and that’s quite amazing isn’t it?” Hobbs said.
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This team is starting anew and got a harsh introduction Saturday night to what Hobbs has repeatedly called “a rebuilding year.” The Colonials (15-7, 6-4 A-10) made seven of its 26 shots while getting outscored 44-18 in the second half by the Musketeers (18-7, 8-3 A-10).
GW kept it close in the first half and went into halftime down only three points but eventually allowed the lead to balloon to 29 points at the end of the game. It was the second-worst loss in Hobbs’ tenure.
The Colonials, who are now tied for fourth place with Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s in the conference standings, got 13 points from senior Carl Elliott and 12 from junior Maureece Rice. Senior Dokun Akingbade managed eight points and freshman Travis King had six points. The Colonials also turned the ball over 18 times.
Rebounding, a season-long problem for the Colonials, hampered GW against the taller and more experienced Musketeers team. GW was only out-rebounded 33-29 but Elliott, a guard, racked up the most rebounds. Akingbade, the team’s center, had five rebounds.
While one streak ended Saturday night, another one was continued. The losing streak that GW started nearly two weeks ago carries this team into a critical point of the season and an away game against Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night in Philadelphia. And the GW players, none of which were made available to media Saturday night, aren’t used to this kind of losing streak.
Hobbs said, “There are not enough experienced guys in that locker room that know how to deal with this.”