AMHERST, Mass. – For 27 minutes and 29 seconds of Wednesday night’s men’s basketball team’s 77-62 loss against the University of Massachusetts Wednesday night, there was no distinguishable difference between the Colonials (10-17, 4-11 Atlantic 10) and their opponents. The two teams had given and taken the lead from each other multiple times throughout the game, paying each other in kind for made baskets.
Then, slowly, everything changed. What began as a short UMass run snowballed into a sustained chain of unfortunate events for GW, which entered the game with both momentum and an opportunity to improve its chances at making the A-10 tournament in Atlantic City.
“We didn’t make the shots we had, we lost our focus, we didn’t get back, they shot too many threes which we didn’t contest that well,” said senior Rob Diggs, listing what went wrong.
On Senior Night at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen went on a 29-14 run over the game’s last 12:31 and GW went from likely conference tournament entrant with their fate in their own hands to longshot needing some help.
Winner of the previous two games before Wednesday, the Colonials must win their Senior Day matchup against Temple (10-4 A-10) Saturday night at the Smith Center and have Charlotte beat St. Bonaventure earlier in the day in order to finish 12th and qualify for postseason play.
Head coach Karl Hobbs, whose job may be tied to making the tournament, was in no mood to talk after the game, giving terse answers to questions from the media. The same can not be said for the Minutemen, who cracked jokes after the game and appeared to be visibly relieved.
“We were not leaving tonight without a win,” senior UMass center Luke Bonner said.
From the beginning, UMass players pressured GW on defense, recalling Hobbs’ former teams in the way they pressured the ball. The Colonials adjusted to the aggressiveness, taking a six-point lead into the second half, but exerted perhaps too much energy in the process. By the end, Diggs – who scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds – looked tired and had trouble establishing position against Bonner. When Diggs stopped producing, so did the rest of GW’s offense.
Hobbs credited UMass’ experienced guards for “completely” outplaying their counterparts. Johnny Lee, Travis King and Tony Taylor – GW’s triumvirate of point guards – combined to score seven points, while turning the ball over six times, to go along with six assists.
As Diggs alluded to, UMass’ three-point shooting first got them back into the game, then helped them pull away. While GW made just three of 14 attempts, the Colonials allowed 12 UMass makes on 29 tries.
Both Diggs and Hobbs, perhaps facing their last game at GW, said they would not approach Saturday’s must-win 7 p.m. matchup any differently than other games, though Hobbs asserted so fervently, while Diggs paused before answering.
Whether it is beneficial to play desperately is debatable, but there is no question as to the significance of Saturday’s game, whether the team’s coaches and players are willing to admit it or not.