Just two minutes had elapsed in the GW men’s basketball team’s game against Binghamton University Wednesday when Wynton Witherspoon intercepted a Bearcat pass.
Witherspoon sprinted down the floor with one BU player to beat – but instead of trying to score himself, he bounced a behind-the-back pass to a trailing Damian Hollis.
Hollis grabbed the ball and slammed it through the hoop, letting out an emphatic scream upon landing and giving the Colonials the game’s first momentum.
They never let it go.
GW (2-0) stayed on top of the Bearcats all night, ending up with a 71-57 victory over the team that stunned a fractured Colonials squad last year. Hollis finished with 15 points and six rebounds while senior Noel Wilmore hit four three-pointers en route to a 16-point performance.
Hollis’ dunk not only got the Smith Center’s 2,650 fans into the game early, it allowed the 6-foot-8 junior to feel more relaxed on a floor where he’s been criticized for overthinking.
“It definitely released a lot of tension I had,” Hollis said. “I didn’t have such a good game (last week) – as a team we didn’t have such a good game – and I was kind of frustrated so I just kind of let it all out.”
Hollis had been mostly dormant in the Colonials’ season-opening victory against Boston last Friday, scoring five points that did not really affect the outcome of the game. Though he had a double-double, senior Rob Diggs was off his game last week too – but like Hollis, he bounced back in Wednesday’s return to Foggy Bottom.
Diggs put out a 13-point, 6-rebound performance against the Bearcats in a game where the Colonials looked inside early and often. GW scored 32 points in the paint Wednesday, at times ditching the perimeter-passing offense they employed last year and looking for Diggs and Hollis inside or letting Xavier Alexander and Aaron Ware drive to the basket.
When the Bearcats zone defense did keep the ball outside, Wilmore was available to send it through the net. Wilmore – whose outside shooting prowess could be a bigger staple of the Colonials offense this year – credited his teammates with getting him more looks.
“Great teammates who are looking to find me all the time makes my job real easy,” he said.
Wednesday’s victory was the Colonials’ 20th consecutive home-opener victory, but the win over Binghamton meant more to GW than just keeping a streak alive. The Bearcats beat a struggling GW squad last year and sent the Colonials reeling, and Wednesday’s win was payback for GW.
“I think we all put a lot of emphasis on the fact that we lost to that team last year and it’s probably a team that we shouldn’t have lost to,” he said. “We really wanted to come out and get that win for that reason and not make a habit of losing to teams that we shouldn’t be.”
GW’s next match-up comes Saturday, Nov. 22, at Auburn. The Colonials will again hope to avenge a loss from last season, as the Tigers beat GW in the BB&T Tournament last December.