Men’s basketball sinks Navy in BB&T Classic

Almost midway through the second half of the GW men’s basketball game against Navy Sunday at the Verizon Center, as the Colonials treaded water with a double-digit lead, the Midshipmen launched an offensive. But even as Navy bombed a trio of threes to key an 11-2 run that cut GW’s lead to just one, the Colonials weren’t worried about their opponents’ surge.

“Our motto is, ‘We’re gonna get you,’ ” senior Damian Hollis said after the game. “We don’t know when, but it’s gonna happen.”

That time came immediately. On the Colonials’ first possession after their lead reached its minimum, freshman Tim Johnson knocked down a three-pointer of his own to begin a four-minute string of 14 unanswered GW points that carried the Colonials to an eventual 81-69 win in the BB&T Classic.

GW’s (6-1) offense was led throughout the game by Hollis, who scored a team-high 18 points, and freshman Lasan Kromah, who added 16 and tied for the team lead in rebounds with five. The pair entered Sunday as the only Colonials with double-digit scoring averages and have now finished as the team’s top two scorers in five of their seven games.

Hollis, who was named the Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Week Sunday, had his strong shooting carry over from last week’s 25-point performance against George Mason, knocking down a number of long jump shots from only a step or two inside the three-point line. He attributed his recent hot streak to an increase in practice reps, as well as his teammates.

“My players get me open for shots like 99 percent of the time,” he said. “I think there was just one play where I had to kind of get my own shot, but besides that I just basically depend all on our players to get me shots.”

Kromah’s game-high five steals, on the other hand, helped him spark some scoring of his own. The first-year guard scored three times after forcing a Navy turnover, displaying the pesky defensive acumen that has him leading the team in steals so far this season with 18.

That same aggression, however, put Kromah in early foul trouble, picking up his third infraction with a little less than three minutes left in the first half. Head coach Karl Hobbs left Kromah in the game for more than two minutes before removing him, though, and even started him in the beginning of the second half, seemingly a display of faith in his team’s youngest player.

“He has a very high basketball IQ,” Hobbs said of Kromah. “He’s a very precocious young man. He really understands how to play.”

“We needed his ball-handling at that time and that’s why we had to keep him in the game,” he added. “And also, he has that ability to make a big shot and so I thought he really did a terrific job at not getting any silly fouls that young guys tend to do.”

Johnson was next on the team in scoring with 12 points, a new career-high for the freshman, while sophomores Tony Taylor and Aaron Ware each added nine points of their own. Senior Hermann Opoku chipped in a career-best eight points to go with five rebounds off the bench, once again displaying the sort of depth that has characterized GW this season.

With freshmen regulars Bryan Bynes and David Pellom, as well as injured classmate Daymon Warren, suspended for the game for violating a team rule, the Colonials needed contributions all around.

“I think we’ve got guys that, night in and night out, are gonna give us eight, 10 points, but we need like six, seven guys to do that,” Hobbs said. “Hopefully that’ll continue to happen for us.”

Wednesday, GW will host Providence, the first Big East team to visit the Smith Center since the Friars did so in 2000. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.

Read an editor’s note on The Hatchet’s headline.

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