Andrew Alberg: Progress shown despite defeat

There was a day not so long ago when GW men’s basketball team could count on a series of lucky breaks and fortuitous bounces to propel them to victories in a close game. Those days are no longer, but despite surface appearances, all is not lost with this current Colonials team.

When discussing a team in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, arguing that it’s not as bad as it seems may be a tough sell. But although every defeat has the same effect on a team’s position in the standings, all losses are not created equal. There are good losses, there are bad losses and there are losses that change little one way or the other.

So, while it’s easy to lump the GW’s men’s basketball team’s current nine-game losing streak into one amorphous blob of ineptitude, the Colonials’ last four defeats have been much more encouraging than the preceding five. During the recent stretch, head coach Karl Hobbs’ team has lost by an average of just fewer than four points per game against respectable Atlantic 10 opponents. Blowouts, these were not. A few bounces in the direction and the Colonials would not be winless.

During Sunday’s 94-89 double-overtime loss to the University of Rhode Island, GW’s players-especially senior guard Noel Wilmore and junior guard Johnny Lee-hit big shot after big shot while playing decent enough defense to put them in a position to win against a team that took highly-ranked Duke to the brink of defeat at Cameron Indoor earlier this season.

Eventually, GW’s players wore down during the second overtime. Senior forward Rob Diggs fouled out during regulation and sophomore center Joe Katuka – who Hobbs said is healthy – sat on the bench as he has five of the past six games. As a result, Rhode Island kept getting easy baskets and GW’s tired players could only keep up for so long.

Before each game, the Colonials seem to be all smiles during warm-ups, as if the mounting pressure of a lengthy losing streak hasn’t gotten to them yet, which is probably for the better. During Sunday’s postgame press conference, Wilmore spoke like a team leader for the first time during his career when asked by a reporter about the team possibly losing confidence.

“Stuff like that is never a question with this group of guys,” Wilmore said. “We’re very committed, we all believe in the guys that we have. We don’t really sob and we’re not looking for anybody’s pity or anything like that.We’re in this together and we understand that that is really necessary.”

The Colonials are on the brink of respectability, a marked improvement over their embarrassing stretch of losses in Hawaii and at Longwood. Of course, that’s not exactly a high standard for a program that recently made three straight NCAA tournaments, but it’s better than being completely irrelevant.

This team could have rolled over, played dead, blamed its coach for their failures and been done with it. Instead, they’re clawing back, one narrow loss at a time. Now, if only they can get that elusive win.

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