This season, GW’s men’s basketball team has lost sometimes because its offensive wasn’t good enough, sometimes because its defense wasn’t good enough and sometimes because its best players were seated squarely on the bench. But Thursday night against Atlantic 10 rival Dayton, it lost in a whole new way entirely.
Trailing 61-60 with 21 seconds left in the second half, Dayton’s coaches noticed something was amiss while it tried to inbound the ball for what it hoped to be a game-winning score. Six Colonials players were on the court, they noticed, a fact they promptly pointed out to the officials, who called a technical foul.
“I saw the ball go in, and everybody had a man, but I saw somebody didn’t have a man but everybody was covered,” senior Wynton Witherspoon said. “I said `Aw man, we have six people on the court. I’ve got to get off the court.’ So I jumped over the chairs, but I didn’t do it in time.”
“My staff saw it and started saying ‘They have six guys on the court'” Dayton head coach Brian Gregory said after the game. “My concern was getting the ball inbounds, and its hard guarding against six.”
GW head coach Karl Hobbs said freshman Aaron Ware subbed in for Damian Hollis after Hollis hit a free throw, but Hollis did not get the message and remained on the court. In a postgame press conference, Hobbs seemed to start to point the finger towards the official scorer’s desk, but stopped himself.
Dayton’s Marcus Jackson calmly hit the ensuing two free throws, giving his team a one point lead, but missed the second of two after he was fouled upon play restarting.
With 20 seconds left on the clock and down 63-61, GW winded down the clock until freshman point guard Tony Taylor hoisted up a long desperation three, which was then rebounded by senior forward Rob Diggs, who missed the put-back.
Another game, another GW loss (its eighth straight), the standings will show. But the Colonials (7-10, 0-4 A-10) showed they could play on the same level as the Flyers, who entered the game with a 17-2 record. Witherspoon continued his resurgence, scoring a game-high 19 points in 32 minutes. GW outrebounded its opponents and successfully hung with Dayton’s fast guards. In the end, however, the Flyers were able to mount their small second half comeback by hitting open three-pointers that GW defenders could not guard in time.
The narrow loss was a reversal of roles for these teams, who have played numerous close games in recent year, all of which GW won. In March of 2004, guard T.J. Thompson hit a buzzer-beater to give the team the 66-64 win. Less than a year later, in February 2005, guard Carl Elliott hit a miraculous half-court fling to win as the buzzer expired. Then last year, Witherspoon gave the Colonials one of its few conference wins with a buzzer-beater of his own. Given his team’s history, Gregory said he was not comfortable until the game was officially over.
“For the last two days all I could think of was how T.J. Thompson hit one against us, Carl Elliott hit one against us, last year Witherspoon hit the one against us,” Gregory said. “Gracious, enough is enough. So when [Taylor] shot that one from the corner, I could tell it was going to be long, but sometimes you lose on the second shot…But that last possession, I wasn’t feeling so good. I’ve been down that road too many times.”
The Colonials next play Rhode Island Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Smith Center.