In a game where the GW men’s basketball team put up nearly 100 points, it would be easy to say the offense played well. But in Saturday’s 94-51 win over UMBC, it would be a mistake to overlook the Colonials’ (3-0) defense, which held the Retrievers to 30.6 percent shooting, forced eight steals and blocked eight shots.
GW’s aggressive defending was apparent immediately, forcing turnovers on each of UMBC’s first four possessions.
“Right from the very beginning they took it right to us,” UMBC head coach Randy Monroe said. “They took us out of things that we wanted to do.”
Perhaps the most attention-grabbing defensive play came from senior Damian Hollis in the third minute of the second half. As UMBC guard Shawn Grant drove through the lane, Hollis stepped in and emphatically swatted the ball out of bounds. Hollis had another huge block later in the half and finished with a team-leading three in the game.
“It felt good, knowing that I had my whole team behind me and the crowd,” Hollis said of getting the blocks. “I only got them because of my teammates, because they put me in position to get those.”
The Colonials utilized their roster depth in the win, allowing them to maintain a high level of intensity throughout the game.
“We have the ability to play a great number of guys,” head coach Karl Hobbs said. “We tell our guys that we want them to give us three minutes of everything they have on the defensive end, and then we have fresh bodies coming in.”
“Our objective is to come out strong and wear the other teams down, so that in the second half, they’re not shooting as comfortably,” he added.
Monroe said GW’s defensive pressure forced the Retrievers to rush shots and play at a faster tempo than they would have liked, throwing off their game plan.
“We had trouble doing everything against GW today,” Monroe said. “I think we even had trouble getting off the bus.”
GW also had 57 rebounds to the UMBC’s 27, a statistic Monroe cited as key to the game’s outcome.
“That impressed me a heck of a whole lot,” the second-year coach said. “You can still win games by pounding the glass and the teams that do that on a consistent basis are usually the teams that come out on top.”
For Hobbs, the aggressive defense is a return to the style that marked his most successful GW teams.
“I’m just happy that we’re back to playing that way – with energy and pressing and trapping and playing full-speed – and that lends itself to getting steals and deflections,” Hobbs said before comparing this year’s play to the slower pace of the past two seasons. “Now we have the depth, we have the athletes and, most importantly, we have the character to play that way.”