AUBURN, Ala. – The story began encouragingly, its characters bore different identities, but the ending remained the same. The Colonials paid a visit to a team from one of college basketball’s power conferences and left with a tally in the loss column for their troubles.
Saturday’s 83-71 lose-from-ahead defeat at Auburn was not last December’s thrashings at Alabama and Virginia Tech. It was not last November’s loss to perennial powerhouse UCLA in Los Angeles. Perhaps it was most akin to a late 2006 date with Southern California, when GW let a 23-point halftime lead slip through their suddenly cold fingers to lose going away.
Since Hobbs arrived in 2001, GW has had only one win outside the District against a program from college basketball’s six major conferences. That came in the second such game, a six-point win at Providence. Since then, the Colonials are 0-14 in those contests.
Some have been in the postseason; some have been in the regular season. Some have been close games; most have not been. Some have been against national title contenders; some have been against teams in the middle or bottom of their conference. All but one have been losses.
“I think they’re better teams – that’s what’s different,” Hobbs said, comparing other opponents to ones from these conferences. “We’re GW and we’re coming in here trying to beat an SEC team. It’s always difficult.”
What made this loss special was that for the game’s first 20 minutes, it was GW that looked like the big, bad major program playing on its own court. They picked apart nearly every opening the Tigers’ defense permitted, be it repeated failures to cover shooters on the perimeter or a total neglect of the paint that allowed juniors Damian Hollis and Hermann Opoku to connect on an easy alley-oop.
Auburn, for its part, looked like the shaky smaller-league program trying to regain its footing throughout the first half. The Tigers appeared as flustered by GW’s defense as they were overwhelmed by its offense.
But when Aubun corrected its deficiencies in the second half, GW could find no more to exploit.
In short, the Colonials had no answer when their SEC hosts began to play like an SEC team. Until Hobbs and his players find a solution to this perpetual problem, GW’s program will have trouble gaining national recognition and respect.