Men fall flat in A-10 opener against Richmond

For much of Saturday night’s men’s basketball 60-48 loss to Richmond, head coach Karl Hobbs’ team looked like a group that had lost four straight games to some of the worst teams in the country.

The Spiders led 25-5 in the first half, a lead that swelled to 23 points early in the second half of the game, both teams’ Atlantic 10 opener. Then, the Colonials (6-7, 0-1 A-10) started to show signs of life. Defensive stops were followed by successful offensive possessions and before long the gap hovered around 10 points. But Richmond’s strategy of milking the clock every offensive possession proved unbeatable, as the clock slowly ticked away, taking GW’s chances down with it.

“I really felt that in the second half, we grew a little bit tonight,” Hobbs said. “We’ve got to focus on putting two halves together. We’re a young team trying to find ourselves, as a coach I have to have a certain level of patience with these guys. I know the fans don’t, but I have to.”

It would be hard to blame the fans for not being enthusiastic supporters during the first half, when GW’s offense failed to produce quality shot opportunities. The team’s 14 first-half points were a product of twirling layups and odd-angled shots, not open jumpers or well-executed cuts. Few players moved without the ball in an effort to lose their defenders, forcing the player in possession to go at it alone, usually with unsightly results. The Colonials turned the ball over 17 times, more than doubling their total of seven assists.

But in the second half fans got behind their team during its 12-1 run that cut the deficit to single digits. Senior Rob Diggs produced the type of highlight-worthy dunk he has made a habit by getting possession in the backcourt and driving to the basket for an explosive slam over a Richmond defender.

Senior Wynton Witherspoon, who played a season-high 36 minutes, scored 13 of his 15 points in the period. The beleaguered forward had his playing time taken away during the team’s trip to Hawaii for unspecified reasons, but has seen more action the last two games.

“It was nice to get into a groove finally – it took me long enough,” Witherspoon said. “I’ve got to play with confidence and keep on attacking, not settle for jump shots like I’ve done in the past.”

While Witherspoon showed improvement, freshman point guard Tony Taylor seemed to regress, missing all seven shot attempts and scoring just one point in 30 minutes. Taylor made numerous attempts to drive the baseline in the first half, but was invariably stymied by a swarm of Richmond defenders. By the second half, the New York native appeared frustrated.

“Our defense was excellent tonight, probably our best defensive game,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “Anytime you’re going to win on the road in this conference, it’s going to take good defensive play.”

The closest GW came to catching the Spiders was an eight-point deficit, a margin that lasted only one possession before Richmond center Jahron Giddings banked a three-pointer in from the top of the key as the shot clock winded down with 1:43 left to seal the Colonials’ fate.

Now losers of five straight games, Hobbs and his team face an Atlantic 10 that is unlikely to be sympathetic of their plight.

The Colonials next play Wednesday at Duquesne.

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