PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 3 — Before this season, senior Maureece Rice was not used to losing. In his first three years as a member of the GW men’s basketball team, the Colonials won the Atlantic 10 title twice and qualified for the NCAA tournament each season.
But now, everything is different. GW’s 93-80 loss at Temple Sunday afternoon was the latest in a string of losses – six straight – and Rice said he is starting to feel the pain.
“I’ve always been part of a winning team, all three years I’ve been here,” Rice said after the game. “This is the first year we’re losing. To have a losing season like this, it definitely hurts.”
Falling to the Owls might have been particularly painful because Rice, a Philadelphia native, was playing his last collegiate contest in his hometown. Head coach Karl Hobbs said Rice had some extra motivation and wanted to have a special day.
“I think he did,” Hobbs said, leaving much up to the imagination.
Rice led the Colonials (5-12, 1-6 A-10) with 22 points and hit some key three-pointers, including one with just less than nine minutes remaining that tied the game. That shot was the last in a GW 10-0 run not long after the Owls (11-9, 4-2 A-10) had led by 14.
Also making big shots was fellow Philadelphia native Noel Wilmore. The junior made two in a row during the second-half run and shot 6-of-7 from behind the arc to tally 18 points.
“He kept giving us a chance to be in position to possibly win the game,” Hobbs said.
But Temple’s local heroes outdid GW’s in front of 3,867 fans at Liacouras Center. The Owls’ Mark Tyndale and Dione Christmas (21 points each), Lavoy Allen (19 points) and Chris Clark (17 points) – who all hail from Philadelphia – scored all but 15 of their team’s points.
It was also Tyndale who almost single-handedly kept the Colonials from turning a one-point lead with a touch less than eight minutes remaining into their first road victory of the season. The senior had five rebounds, three points and two converted free throws in a five-minute span that produced a 12-point swing. As quickly as the Colonials had erased the Owls’ lead the Owls took it right back.
All season, Hobbs has said that his primary goal is to have his team improve from one game to the next, win or lose. Despite the loss, GW did look more composed and less mistake-prone. Two games after producing 29 turnovers, the Colonials had just eight, a season low.
“I think we’ve gotten better but our problem is when we need to play with a little bit more focus,” Hobbs said. “(It’s also about) understanding situations. We have those two- or three-minute droughts where we sort of break down. We got the lead and then we relaxed for two minutes. All it takes is to relax for two minutes on the road and the game is over.”
The Colonials return home for a two-game home stand, first hosting La Salle on Wednesday before facing Dayton Feb. 9. Rice said he told his team to not give up despite its inability to find a victory.
“We have to just keep working,” he said. “We’re right there at the hill; we just have to get over it. We didn’t get over it, and now we have another loss. We have to look forward and get ready for La Salle.”