Saturday, March 8, 11:36 p.m.
After his team’s 67-63 loss to Massachusetts Saturday evening, GW men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs seemed to be in a good mood, smiling and jovial despite the fact that his team came up on the losing end.
Hobbs said he was pleased with his squad’s heart despite having seemingly nothing to play for after being eliminated from the Atlantic 10 tournament this afternoon.
“The guys played with tremendous purpose,” Hobbs said. “Once we settled down, it was a winnable basketball game. Our energy was tremendous.”
GW (9-17, 5-11 A-10) finished its season the 13th-placed team in a 14-squad conference, missing the post-season for the first time since 1974. UMass was out to secure one of the four first-round byes to the A-10 tournament and also to protect its Ratings Percentage Index, a statistical category the NCAA selection committee looks at when giving out at-large bids.
And yet, the game was a battle until the final seconds. The Minutemen (21-9, 10-6 A-10) jumped out to an early lead, but much like over the past couple of weeks the Colonials did not fade away, instead fighting back, tying the score and taking the lead. That would teeter back and forth but the game was not out of reach until the final buzzer sounded.
“This game we easily could have lost,” UMass coach Travis Ford said.
Ford also added that his team had practiced with Maureece Rice in mind, a senior who was released from the GW squad late this week after failing to adhere to team rules. Ford said his team had to adjust its game plan once it found out Rice was no longer on the squad.
Rice has been the topic of conversation over the past few days, before, during and after GW’s loss at Charlotte and leading into its game Saturday night. Hobbs and the entire program have been tight-lipped about the situation and unwilling to comment on the specifics of why Rice is no longer on the team.
The game against UMass was on Senior Night, making Rice’s absence even the more apparent. Unlike in years past, when Smith Center got the opportunity to bid farewell to players who had made a large impact during their four years at Foggy Bottom, there was no one around for that ceremony this year. The two seniors honored, Dom Greene and Keri Gonsalves, while both important in what they bring off the court, rarely contributed on it. A week ago, it looked like this would be Rice’s day to receive his due but the former shooting guard was nowhere in sight.
With the season now over, Hobbs said the coaches are going to reevaluate the team and how it can improve for next season.
“I’m disappointed that the season has come to an end,” Hobbs said. “Sort of reflecting on immediately starting the rebuilding process. We thought last year was rebuilding but it turned out to be this year. I see a lot of changes in the program. Start back, building it block to block.”