The GW men’s basketball team’s trip to Charlotte Thursday represents a pivotal point in the Colonials’ quest to do the seemingly commonplace: have the opportunity to defend last year’s conference championship. The Colonials (9-15, 5-9 Atlantic 10) currently find themselves right inside the cut for the upcoming A-10 tournament in Atlantic City, N.J., and control their own destiny.
Yet to even have such an opportunity took a moderately surprising February resurgence. After consecutive losses to start last month, the Colonials found themselves 1-7 in conference play, tied for last among the conference’s 14 teams. A blowout loss to La Salle at home in the second of those two games seemed to be the team bottoming out for good.
Instead of packing it in, GW rallied for a thrilling, last-second upset of Dayton its next time out, beginning a five-game stretch in which the Colonials went 4-1. Even Saturday’s loss to then-No. 9/11 (AP, ESPN/USA Today) Xavier was as impressive a defeat as a team could have, taking the Musketeers down to the wire in their own building before a late cold streak did GW in.
While GW has won four of its last six entering Thursday, Charlotte has done the opposite, going 2-4 over the same stretch. The 49ers are 7-7 in conference play and 16-12 overall, led by senior Leemire Goldwire’s 18.4 points per game. He has averaged 15.5 points in four career games against GW.
“We’ve got to come out,;we’ve got to play hard. It’s going to be a tough game,” coach Karl Hobbs said about Thursday’s game. “Obviously it’s on the road going against one of the upper teams in the league. It’s going to take a great effort on our part. We’ve got to play with a little bit more discipline than we did in the Xavier game.”
This will be the first meeting between the Colonials and 49ers this season, but they are certainly no strangers to one another, having developed a bit of a rivalry in recent seasons. Two years ago at Smith Center, GW won on a Carl Elliott tip-in as the clock expired in overtime, capping an undefeated run through conference play. Last year, the Colonials went into Charlotte and won a nail-biter, with Elliott hitting the game-winner yet again.
Freshman Xavier Alexander, though not yet at GW, was likely following those games closely: his older brother, De’Angelo, was an all-conference wingman at Charlotte at the time. Elliott and the elder Alexander are now pursuing professional careers after graduating last spring, but there is no love lost between the two programs.
Because Fordham lost Wednesday night, the Colonials can quality for the tournament by winning out, at Charlotte and against Massachsetts. If GW splits and Fordham loses to St. Bonaventure Saturday, the Colonials are in.
Hobbs said he has not been paying attention to the league’s results, choosing to look only at the Charlotte and UMass games.
“I expect (GW) to do well, and I expect us to win (against Charlotte) and come back and get ready for the last game of the season,” Hobbs said.”
Thursday’s clash is sure to be an intense one as Charlotte fights for seeding and GW for survival. Which Colonials will show up in North Carolina: the ones that have looked like a new team in recent weeks, or the ones that wilted away for the first few months of the season? A ticket to Atlantic City may depend on the answer.