RICHMOND, Va. – After an extended midseason stretch of turmoil, the GW men’s basketball team’s season appears to be on the rebound – and junior Damian Hollis is leading the way.
The 6-foot-8 forward collected a career-high 16 boards and scored a team-leading 15 points to fuel a 66-57 win over Richmond Saturday night, giving the Colonials (10-16, 4-10 Atlantic 10) their first back-to-back wins since December.
Hollis was given ample opportunities for rebounds on the defensive end, where he collected 14 of his 16 via Richmond’s uncharacteristically poor shooting throughout the game. GW head coach Karl Hobbs praised Richmond last week as having one of the A-10’s best offenses, but it was rendered inept Saturday by what both sides suggested may have been a combination of strong Colonials defense and shoddy Spiders shooting.
Richmond shot a shade under 27 percent on the night, being blocked seven times by four Colonials but also missing several uncontested jump shots and at one point missing the mark on four consecutive foul shots.
“We did some different things to them tonight that kind of kept them off balance,” Hobbs said after the game.
Whatever those different things were, they seemed to work. Richmond guards Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez combined to make just eight of 34 field goals, nearly mirroring their team’s meager percentage. Though trips to the free-throw line enabled the pair to total a quiet 29 points, neither of them were able to provide any extended spark against a defense that Hobbs said spent extended time preparing to counter each of their strengths.
Though GW’s own offensive output was did not appear particularly flashy or overwhelming, it was effective. Senior Rob Diggs – who finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots – was one of several Colonials to provide a boost in the first half. His burst of four points in twelve seconds, coming on a pair of free throws and then a breakaway dunk off his own mid-court steal, not only silenced the Richmond crowd but gave GW a nine-point advantage that helped put the game in their control.
The Colonials were also able to score immediately following a number of timeouts, which Hobbs said was a byproduct of countering Richmond’s pressing defense.
“We just went and attacked and we didn’t want them to feel like they could put any kind of pressure on us,” Hobbs said. “We wanted to make sure that we were able to dictate the pace of the game and we wanted to dictate the style of the game.”
“I thought we were able to do that,” he concluded. “The guys executed the game plan beautifully.”
Overall, Saturday’s win was a far cry from the teams’ previous meeting Jan. 10 in Foggy Bottom, when the Spiders cruised past a slumping GW 60-48 after jumping out to a 25-5 lead and never looking back.
“The first time we played Richmond, we played almost like we were confused, not sure who should shoot, who should drive,” Hobbs said Saturday, explaining that the Colonials are playing like an entirely different team than they were during their prolonged struggles. “Part of that [difference] is the growth of this basketball team.”
Next GW will head north for a pivotal game against Massachusetts. The Minutemen are one of three teams in the Colonials’ sights as they try to make up ground in the A-10 standings and punch one of the last tickets to next week’s conference tournament in Atlantic City, N.J.
“I just hope we continue to grow,” Hobbs said. “I hope we can continue to win so that we can extend our season.”