On a day dedicated to seniors, it was a trio of GW’s underclassmen who stole the show.
Freshmen Damian Hollis and Travis King were two of five GW players to score double figures in leading GW to an 88-80 win over Duquesne in front of an announced crowd of 3,691 at Smith Center.
The win gave the Colonials the third seed and a bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament, to be played March 7-11 in Atlantic City, N.J. It was also a monumental win for the program as the Colonials recorded its third consecutive 20-win season, finishing the year with a 20-8 record overall and 11-5 in the Atlantic 10.
Hollis continued a stretch of impressive performances by scoring a team- and career-high 18 points to go along with a career-high 12 rebounds, enough to give the Florida native his first career double-double. Sophomore Rob Diggs came off the bench to score 17 and grab seven rebounds and Hollis’ classmate, point guard Travis King, had 11 points and nine assists.
“Travis is a tremendous player,” senior Carl Elliott said. “Him going out and having the game he had was good for him. He needed to have a game like that so his confidence level is extra high, and we needed that going into the (A-10) tournament.”
Elliott had an unremarkable game, his last game at Smith Center. He scored eight points and had six rebounds and five assists in the win, his 47th at Smith Center, to go along with five career home losses. After the game, Elliott said he was sad to play his last game on GW’s home court and wished he had closed with a better game individually, but was glad to get a win. Elliott and his fellow seniors, Dokun Akingbade and Regis Koundjia, were honored before the game.
GW led the entire game except for a brief stretch early in the second half, but the Colonials played sloppy throughout. Botched alley-oops, missed dunks and charges accounted for much of the team’s offense, especially during the first half, and GW had 18 turnovers in the game.
Coach Karl Hobbs said he was pleased by the team’s rebounding, an area in which the team has been inconsistent this year. GW out-rebounded the Dukes 44-to-30 overall and were led by Hollis, whose previous career-high was six.
Hobbs did not seem pleased by the game’s officiating, judging by his chasing down of an official after the game to express his displeasure. He would not comment on the subject after the game.
Junior Maureece Rice’s grandmother passed away Friday night, causing the guard to play just 15 minutes, almost all in the first half, before sitting the remainder of the game.
“He was really struggling today; he had a tough day,” Hobbs said. “I think, emotionally, he had a lot coming at him and he hasn’t been well in about two weeks when she’s been very ill.”
After losing four key players from last season, Hobbs said he thought this year’s team’s success was special.
“This team got more out of what it had than any (GW) team in a while, in my opinion,” Hobbs said.
The fourth-seeded Colonials will play their first Atlantic 10 tournament game March 8 at 9 p.m. against the winner of the Saint Joseph’s-Temple game. Given the team’s lack of depth, Hobbs said that earning a bye in the first round of the tournament was essential.
“I couldn’t imagine us winning four games in a row,” Hobbs said. “Just trying to win three will be very difficult.”
If the team does not earn an automatic bid by winning the conference tournament, it seems unlikely to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but Hobbs has begun his campaigning should the situation arise.
“If we get to the final game (of the A-10 tournament), we will be in the discussion,” Hobbs said. “At that point, I truly believe we will have done enough to get an at-large bid.”
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