December 13, 2008
Their tickets may have billed a match-up between GW and Harvard, but those in attendance Saturday at Smith Center were treated to an impromptu performance of the Damian Hollis Show.
The junior forward tied his career-high, led all scorers and matched his jersey number and career-high with 22 points in the Colonials’ 78-63 win over the Crimson. The win was GW’s third home victory in as many games this season.
Yet Hollis said that even early on, when he scored eight straight GW points on a series of three possessions, offense was not the first thing on his mind.
“I was more worried about our defense. I feel like scoring just happened,” Hollis said. “I was wondering why we couldn’t make the jumps that we should have. We couldn’t break away from them.”
Hollis’s 17 points accounted for nearly half of GW’s first-period points, as the 6-foot-8 Floridian made seven of nine shots from the floor, including three three-pointers. He did not miss a field goal from inside the arc all afternoon.
The aforementioned eight-point outburst was not his only such stretch of the half. With just over six minutes left before the break, junior Johnny Lee lobbed a pass toward the basket, where a surging Hollis slammed it in for a crowd-pleasing alley-oop. He would add a jumper from the top of the key on the next possession and a three a few minutes later.
When the second half got underway, the Colonials (4-2) picked up the pace, launching a 17-4 run to open a 21-point lead with 13 minutes to play.
“They turned it up, and we turned it over,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said of the Colonials’ play early in the half. “They made a pretty sizable run to start the second half, which really knocked us on our heels.”
But Amaker’s Crimson did not fold, eventually responding with a dozen unanswered points of their own to cut GW’s lead to single digits.
“Well, since Damian is sitting here, the reason they made the run is because Damian was sitting on the bench,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs joked before crediting Harvard’s discipline in the face of a large deficit. “So that means he’ll probably knock on my door tomorrow and say, ‘Coach, you can’t sit me on the bench like that.'”
Joining Hollis in double figures on the day were senior Rob Diggs and freshman Tony Taylor, who scored 12 and 11 points respectively.
Diggs, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last season, played only seven minutes in the first half, registering just one basket. He did most of his damage after the break, playing 15 of the game’s final 20 minutes, scoring 10 points and collecting all five of his rebounds.
“He’s getting off to a slow start,” Hobbs said. “Hopefully in these next few games he’ll begin to pick up his intensity, his rhythm will start coming in little bit, and that way we’ll start getting the ball in to him a little bit more.
“But he got terrific numbers for the amount of minutes that he played,” Hobbs added.
Seeing an increase in minutes was sophomore Joseph Katuka, whose seven points and two rebounds represented his first of the season. Hobbs said Katuka’s playing time was a reward for practicing hard and that he had apologized to the forward for not getting him on the court in last weekend’s loss to Maryland.
“He’s getting better. He’s still not quite there, but he’s getting better,” Hobbs said. “I was committed to making sure I played him today.”
The Colonials converted 19 of 23 foul shots – all in the second half – a statistic that did go unnoticed by their coach, who described himself as “ecstatic” about the statistic.
“I think as the season wears on, they’ll start making them,” Hobbs said about his team, which entered the game shooting worse than 60 percent from the line. “We got off to a really bad start from the free-throw line and it was really encouraging to see us knock them down today.”
GW’s next game is Wednesday, when they host American. Tip-off is set for 7:30.