CINCINNATI — A fan favorite since walking on at the beginning of last season, second-year player Johnny Lee stepped out of his usual role as a set-up man in the men’s basketball team’s 66-56 loss at No. 9/11 (AP, ESPN/USA Today) Xavier Saturday evening.
The 5-foot-8 point guard was also a scoring threat against the Musketeers, doubling his previous career high in tallying 14 points. Lee was 4-of-8 from the field, including three three-pointers. He also hit three free throws at the end of the first half during a 15-3 Colonials run that put GW within six points.
The Xavier game was Lee’s sixth straight start and the seventh of his career. This was by far his most productive outing, as he averages 1.6 points per game. He also grabbed three rebounds and had just one turnover in 36 minutes.
Rice sees limited time
Since scoring 17 points in a win at St. Bonaventure more than two weeks ago, senior Maureece Rice has struggled to score in his last three games. He had two points against Richmond and five against Rhode Island, both GW wins. He played 25 minutes in both, a few minutes shy of his average court time this season.
Against Xavier, Rice only played 14 minutes and did not score on three field goal attempts. It was his fourth game this season without a point. Coach Karl Hobbs pulled Rice from the game with a little less than 14 minutes to play and the guard did not again see the hardwood.
After the win over Richmond, Hobbs said Rice was in a bit of a scoring slump and that it was important that he find his way back into the box score soon. While Rice can be an offensive threat (as witnessed with his 22 points in GW’s first game against Xavier, 22 points at Temple and the aforementioned St. Bonaventure performance) but his shooting can also be futile.
Before the season started, it seemed likely that Rice would be the team’s leader offensively if not as a vocal leader as well. While neither seems to have panned out, Rice does appear to finally be okay with his spot on the team. He no longer forces shots and instead focuses on setting screens or setting up his teammates. When the shot is there, he takes it, but when it is not, he looks satisfied trying to help his squad.
Game closer than final score
Though Xavier picked up a double-digit victory, the Musketeers did not lead by that much in the second half until there were 39 seconds remaining. GW was within two with 2:16 left to play, but turned the ball over twice and missed three field goals between that point and the final buzzer.
“That score was not indicative how close the game was,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “We were very fortunate to win.”
Like in a lot of close games, the score inflated as GW fouled down the stretch and Xavier hit free throws. The Musketeers only shot 55 percent from the charity stripe for the game but they made six free throws in the final two minutes.
The loss was the Colonials’ first by less than 11 since a two-point defeat at the hands of Saint Joseph’s Jan. 30.