GW men’s basketball wears out short-handed UMBC, 70-64

Thursday, November 27

The GW men’s basketball game against UMBC wasn’t decided by skill, size and ability as much as it was determined by one unavoidable human condition: fatigue. That and a well-timed trick of the trade.

With a deep bench and up tempo style of play, the Colonials (3-1) wore down the short-handed Retrievers – who played just six players during the meaningful part of the game – and won 70-64 Wednesday night at the Smith Center.

The game, as GW coach Karl Hobbs put it, became a battle of wills between two contrasting styles. Without the luxury of bench players – UMBC coach Randy Monroe said he “played “the guys who are ready to play” – the Retrievers tried to slow GW down and force the Colonials into taking jump shots.

Eventually, though, GW had too many bodies and too much energy down the stretch, as the Colonials shot 52 percent in the second half. After being tied at the break, GW scored the opening basket and never again trailed.

“They only played six guys, so I knew they were going to get tired,” junior Damian Hollis said. “It was just a matter of when and we have a good rotation off the bench.”

“Down the stretch we had fresh bodies in,” Hobbs said. UMBC guard Matt Spadafora “missed a shot because he was fatigued. I mean, he was wide open and that kid doesn’t miss those shots.”

The win served as payback of sorts for GW, whose season took a nosedive after losing to UMBC last year while then-senior Maureece Rice sat on the bench.

Hollis sealed the game with a key tip in to give GW a five point lead with 19 seconds remaining after freshman Tony Taylor missed the second of his two free throws. When asked after the game about how he got into position for the tip in, the Florida native credited a former teammate.

“I have to credit that to (2007 graduate) Regis (Koundjia),” Hollis said. “He always taught me this technique to step on the guy’s foot just before he goes in (for the rebound). I’ve tried it a few times in games and it didn’t work so well but it happened to work there.”

Considering how big the personnel discrepancy was and that UMBC had recently lost by a bigger margin to Morgan State, Saturday’s game was closer than it could have been. Monroe said his team came out like “a house on fire” in the first half, when their lead swelled to as big as nine points before GW figured out the Retrievers’ matchup zone defense. Even when GW looked like it was going to pull way for good in the second half, UMBC – led by forward Darryl Proctor’s 17 points – put together a mini-run that briefly tied the game.

GW senior Rob Diggs continued to struggle offensively, as he failed to establish a consistent offensive prescience in the office post. The 6-foot-9 forward pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds however, six of which came offensively.

Diggs’ classmate, guard Noel Wilmore had a game similar to the one he played against Auburn, when he hit all four of his three-point attempts in the first half before being shut down in the second half. Wilmore scored all of his team-high 14 points in the first half Wednesday and he ended up going four for 11 from three-point territory.

“We have to do a better job of getting him the ball,” Hobbs said. “He’s shooting the ball exceptionally well.”

Wilmore and the Colonials’ next test will come Dec. 7 against UMBC’s sister school, Maryland, in the BB&T Classic. After losing to Auburn, GW will have its second and final chance at beating a team from a power conference.

“We definitely needed a win to help our morale going into the Maryland game,” Hollis said. “I feel like this win definitely helped us.”

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