PHILADELPHIA – In a game not short on opportunities to take control, GW was poised for the final and decisive blow. Thanks to a drive and score by sophomore Aaron Ware and a smothering defense that prevented La Salle from even attempting an inbound pass within the allotted five seconds, the Colonials had possession of the ball under their own basket down one point with 8.4 seconds left Wednesday night.
The ensuing play, head coach Karl Hobbs said after the game, was designed to have freshman Bryan Bynes come free of his defender off of a screen and, no matter what, result in GW attacking the basket.
Neither happened. Instead, after Ware inbounded the ball to redshirt junior Travis King, the guard dribbled at the perimeter as teammates scrambled about before launching a deep three-point shot. The ball clanked off of the rim and into the left hand of senior Damian Hollis, who redirected it toward the basket.
But as the clock expired, the ball fell well short of the net and the Colonials, too, fell short in their quest for a second conference road win, losing to La Salle 65-64.
“It’s the most frustrating loss of the year,” Hobbs said.
That frustration, Hobbs said, did not stem from GW’s (11-5, 1-2 Atlantic 10) singular failure in that instance but in his team’s collective inability to so over the course of the game.
“Every opportunity we had to gain control of the game, there was a breakdown somewhere and each time it was a different guy,” Hobbs said. “It’s not like it’s just one guy so you could just take that one guy out.”
Though GW’s chances came in the first half as well as the second, it is down the stretch of such close games that each and every missed occasion becomes amplified by context.
There was the time the Colonials inbounded the ball under their own basket trailing by two with just over three minutes left, but let the ball get away and bounce toward midcourt. That GW was able to corral the loose ball and get it to sophomore Tony Taylor in the paint only resulted in another shortcoming when he missed the shot.
There was also the free throw missed by Hermann Opoku with just over two minutes left, the shot of Ware’s that was blocked on the next possession, and, on multiple occasions, travels, turnovers, and potential rebounds that bounced off of hands and out of bounds.
“It’s just very hard to win,” Hobbs said, “when you do those things.”
The Colonials were held afloat through the first half by an inspired performance from Hollis, who scored 15 points before halftime. But like with his first-half scoring outburst against Xavier the game before, the senior forward was not much of a factor in the second half, scoring just once on three shots to finish with 17 points.
Ware shouldered some of the load in his stead, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the second half, including the team’s final four points.
Both players did most of their damage in the paint, both evidence and result of GW’s inability to score from the outside. The Colonials made only two of 14 three-point attempts in the game, a struggle that Hobbs said took root early.
“I thought the tone was set in the first half,” Hobbs said. “I thought we had so many open looks in the corners and we just couldn’t get anybody to make that shot.”
Like in Sunday’s loss to Xavier, GW held an advantage in the rebounding department through halftime, but lost that battle in the second half. This time the Colonials were out-rebounded by an eight-board margin after being plus-eight in the statistic in the first half.
“I just think that we lose our focus and for some reason we’re just not getting to balls,” he said before noting that at times, even when players were in position to grab rebounds they failed to do so. “We’ve gotta find a way to get those guys to hold onto those balls.”
The Colonials will have this weekend off before returning to action next Wednesday at Dayton. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.