Coming off a conference play-opening win against St. Bonaventure last Wednesday and a 10-3 performance in nonconference play, the GW men’s basketball team entered Sunday afternoon’s game looking for a signature win against perennial Atlantic 10 power Xavier, a win that the Colonials will still be looking for after their hard-fought 76-69 loss to the Musketeers.
Still, the game, in which GW led by 11 midway through the second half, could be a sign that the Colonials are back on the map in the A-10 and that their gaudy, non-conference record is more than just the result of scheduling. GW’s vast improvements from the past two seasons were not lost on Xavier head coach Chris Mack.
“[GW is] a lot better,” Mack said after the game. “I think they play extremely hard, they play a lot of guys so I’m sure they’re all happy guys in the locker room, they know they’re going to get a chance to go out and compete… I think they have a very talented team.”
The loss marked GW’s fifth straight against the Musketeers, who have played in the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past nine seasons and were predicted to come in second in the conference this season in a preseason media poll. The Colonials were predicted to finish 13th for a third straight season in that same poll.
GW head coach Karl Hobbs said after the game that Sunday’s loss was one that his team would learn from.
“I think there were a lot of positives. I think that we had some opportunities,” Hobbs said. “I most certainly think that this is a game we will grow from. It doesn’t make a difference who the opponent is, not that it’s Xavier or anyone else, its really about us learning from each game.”
Ultimately, Hobbs said, the difference in the game came down to Xavier’s experience in close games this season.
“Without question, you can see the difference in the experience, just in terms of the decision making, the fact that there was never a moment where Xavier looked like they were out of the game,” Hobbs said. “I don’t want to take away anything from Xavier, so please don’t misinterpret it. The experience, without question, was a factor.”
Any experience gained from this game will certainly come in handy in a season in which the A-10 appears to be as deep as it has ever been. Two of GW’s next three games will be against teams predicted to finish in the top three of the conference.
With so much conference firepower coming up before the end of January, Hobbs said that his team will work to take away as much as they can from Sunday’s game.
“We’ll look at the tape, we’ll evaluate situations, we’ll evaluate plays that we could have made, and obviously we’ll talk about some of the things we could have done a little bit better in this game,” Hobbs said. “We just have to keep improving, we just got to keep getting better. It’s going to take us just learning from this experience, and I think we will. One thing about these guys, and what’s great for me, is that I’m not coaching effort, I’m teaching basketball now, and that’s a great thing.”