When the sun rose Saturday morning, the men’s basketball team still had a chance at qualifying for this week’s Atlantic 10 tournament, salvaging their season and preventing embarrassment for a second straight year.
But by the time the referee tossed the ball in the air to start the Colonials’ season finale Temple, that hope was gone – St. Bonaventure had beaten Charlotte, sealing the Colonials’ fate in 13th place.
With nothing left to play for but pride on Senior Day, GW (10-18, 4-12 A-10) lost to Temple 63-53, looking uninspired in the process. Despite shooting just 32.4 percent from the field, the Owls controlled the game throughout by securing an eye-catching 25 offensive rebounds. Seemingly every missed field goal attempt fell into the eager hands of Temple players, while GW’s players watched on in frustration.
To borrow a popular expression among coaches, Saturday night’s game film will not be sent to the hall of fame. GW shot just 35.2 percent from the field and just 57.9 percent from the free throw line, unable to produce any sort of sustained offense for most of the game. Junior Damian Hollis was the team’s only effective offensive player, scoring 21 points on 13 shots.
“The offensive rebound situation was crazy,” Hollis said after the game. “I really don’t know what was going on. It seemed like they just had the right bounces the majority of the time . but there are cures to everything.”
Though Temple coach Fran Dunphy agreed with Hollis’ unlucky-bounce explanation, Colonials head coach Karl Hobbs wasn’t buying it.
“I think we were just so concerned about their three-point shooting that our guards just weren’t getting themselves back in the play to get the long rebounds,” Hobbs said.
Throughout the season, Hobbs has emphasized the importance of his team getting off to fast starts and getting into an offensive rhythm early to avoid having to play catch-up the rest of the way. Saturday night, his team scored just eight points in the first 10 minutes, and the Colonials never led.
After the game, Hobbs praised the team’s four graduating seniors – forwards Rob Diggs and Wynton Witherspoon and guards Noel Wilmore and Johnny Lee – for their commitment to the program. Of the four, who were honored in a pre-game ceremony, only Diggs had a good game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Hobbs said he didn’t discuss the team’s elimination before the game with players, though he conceded, “I’m sure they knew.” After missing the postseason last year for the first time since 1974, doing it two years in a row is a sign of how far the program has fallen.
“For me it’s been very difficult,” Hobbs said. “When you’re accustomed to being at the top of the league, when you’re accustomed to competing and having your name involved in [NCAA tournament discussions], and also when you’re as competitive as I am, it’s extremely difficult.”
He added, “We have to get better. We have to get the program back to where it needs to be.”