WILMINGTON, N.C. – Over the past three seasons, there are a number of things head coach Karl Hobbs has come to expect from senior Damian Hollis, the leader in points and rebounds among Colonials returning from last season. Foul trouble is not one of them.
“He doesn’t play hard enough,” Hobbs said with a laugh after the game. “I love the guy, but he doesn’t play hard enough to get in foul trouble – not like that.”
So when the fourth-year forward started racking up infractions Sunday – two in the game’s first 90 seconds, a third just over a minute after re-entering the game four minutes later – it became apparent that any potential GW win against UNC-Wilmington would need to be built using other parts.
Luckily for the Colonials, those parts came to fruition. Four other GW players – sophomores Aaron Ware and Tony Taylor and freshmen Tim Johnson and David Pellom – scored in double figures and helped propel the Colonials to a season-opening, come-from-behind 76-71 win over the Seahawks.
“We got production from every guy that stepped on the floor,” Hobbs said.
Filling in most directly for Hollis was Pellom, a 6-foot-8 Wilmington native who played an unplanned 25 minutes in the senior’s stead. Pellom made all four of his shots from the field, adding five rebounds, a block, a steal, and an assist in his collegiate debut.
With GW (1-0) trailing by 10 in the first half, classmate Lasan Kromah helped a first-half surge with seven consecutive points that helped the Colonials keep the game within reach.
Thirteen of Ware’s game and career-high 16 points came after halftime as GW knocked on the door and chipped away at the lead. Shortly before the six-minute mark in the second half, Johnson drained a three-pointer to put the Colonials ahead for the first time since Hollis scored the game’s opening basket.
“That sort of energized our defense,” Hobbs said. “Then the young guys started to believe.”
Redshirt sophomore Jabari Edwards, who saw a career-high 18 minutes of court time, helped disrupt the Seahawks’ offense as the game wound down, blocking or altering several shots on defense. Two of his three blocks came in the final three minutes, one of them a full-on rejection of a three-point attempt with 15 seconds left.
“I thought he was tremendous down the stretch,” Hobbs said. “They were all key blocks.”
After watching his teammates compensate for his absence for much of the game, Hollis re-entered the action and made his presence felt before fouling out in the final minute. The Colonials had immediately surrendered the advantage gained on Johnson’s basket on the next possession, but Hollis responded with that same familiar, easy stroke to retake the lead with three points of his own.
“He stayed mentally in the game,” Hobbs said. “Down the stretch, he did what seniors do.”
Helping GW’s cause was the suspension of UNC-Wilmington center John Fields, who was ineligible Sunday after being called for a flagrant foul in the Seahawks’ season opener Friday. Per Colonial Athletic Association policy, Fields was automatically dealt a one-game suspension.
“You gotta catch breaks in this thing,” Hobbs said. “I thought we were very, very fortunate that he didn’t play.”
All told, Hobbs said he was very proud of his young team’s demeanor and effort in the face of a first-half deficit and a hostile road crowd.
“They just kept playing. They never once got discouraged throughout the game,” Hobbs said. “We really couldn’t gather any momentum, but we stayed focused on our game plan and the young guys never got discouraged. They just kept playing.”
The Colonials’ season continues Tuesday with a game at Boston University, scheduled to start at 7 p.m.