College basketball games take 40 minutes to play, but depending on who you ask, they can be decided as early as the first two.
An inauspicious start set the tone for the Colonials Wednesday night, as bodies became tangled, fouls racked up and La Salle seized a hold on the game en route to handing GW a 68-57 defeat.
The contest was barely a minute old when junior Damian Hollis was whistled for a foul as the Explorers’ Kimmani Barrett went up with a layup in transition. Shortly after the initial call, Hollis was additionally tagged with a technical foul, giving him two personal fouls as the game was just beginning to unfold.
“First off, I thought that it was a clean block to begin with,” head coach Karl Hobbs said after the loss, emphasizing that he was fielding a reporter’s question and not criticizing an official.
“I didn’t see what happened after that but you can rest assured I’ll be watching the tape as soon as I get over to my office,” he added. “That’ll be the first thing I watch.”
Barrett hit all four of the resulting free throws, giving La Salle a boost of momentum that it parlayed into an eight-point advantage over the next four minutes.
“We’re just not good enough to have that sort of thing happen to us at the very onset of the game and then try to fight through it,” Hobbs explained. “From that point on, it was an uphill battle.”
After a short GW (7-14, 1-8 Atlantic 10) burst cut the Explorers’ lead to a basket, La Salle’s advantage began to balloon again. The Colonials scored only twice over a nearly six-minute stretch near the end of the first half as the Explorers piled it on. The visitors enjoyed a 14-0 run, pushing their lead to 16 shortly before halftime.
Hobbs received a technical foul during the run for protesting an official’s non-call from the bench. He said the source of his frustration was a La Salle defender not being called for a foul while defending sophomore Joseph Katuka when senior Rob Diggs was whistled for what Hobbs said was the same play on the other end of the floor.
“I just think that officials have to work together as a team,” he said. “They have to understand the flow of the game and there has to be some consistency with calls.”
The Colonials were able to mount a surge in the second half, getting a multitude of key defensive stops in the paint from Diggs and freshman Jabari Edwards. But GW did little to capitalize while limiting La Salle’s scoring, turning the ball over and failing to score on the other end.
With the Explorers’ lead cut to seven, Diggs missed a pair of free throws after having his legs taken out from underneath him on a dunk attempt. On the next GW possession, sophomore Travis King lobbed a pass to a leaping Diggs that the forward could not redirect toward the basket, the ball escaping his grasp and bouncing out of play.
“We had a stretch where I thought we had an opportunity to get ourselves back into it,” Hobbs said before bringing up the aforementioned missed opportunities. “I think (scoring on those) would have changed the fortunes of the game, but unfortunately those things didn’t happen.”
“GW hurt GW tonight,” he added.
Also hurting the Colonials was the foul trouble plaguing Hollis, the team’s most productive source of offense in the game. Despite two additional second-half fouls limiting both his playing time and style, the 6-foot-8 forward was able to score 20 points in just 21 minutes of floor time. He was perfect both from beyond the three-point line and at the free throw line, at one point scoring 16 of 27 GW points in a 17-minute span.
“That just compounded the problem, to have the additional fouls,” Hobbs said. “I thought (Hollis) was the one guy that looked like he could carry us offensively.”
Now the Colonials, who entered Wednesday coming off their first win in over six weeks, must work to right the ship again. The loss to La Salle keeps GW tied with Fordham in the A-10 basement, with Charlotte, Saturday’s opponent, leading both by one game.
A win at the 49ers Saturday would greatly help the Colonials’ chances of qualifying for the conference tournament in March, to which all but the A-10’s two worst teams advance. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. n