RICHMOND, Va. – When Karl Hobbs first came to GW in 2001, Richmond was also new to the Atlantic 10. So when a reporter asked him then if there was a rivalry between the two teams, Hobbs scoffed at the notion.
But after GW’s 74-70 loss to the No. 25 Spiders (AP) Saturday, the latest in a series of close contests between the teams in recent years, the ninth-year head coach noted how things have changed.
“If someone asked me that question tonight,” Hobbs said, “I would say that this is starting to become a little bit of a rivalry.”
Including Saturday night’s game, all but one of the team’s past four match-ups have been decided by single digits, including the Colonials’ (14-11, 4-8 A-10) late-season upset in Richmond last year. This year, GW dropped both games in a home-and-home series with the Spiders by a combined nine points.
Richmond junior point guard Kevin Anderson, who had 21 and 24-point performances against GW this season, said his team is especially motivated to play against the Colonials, particularly in light of GW’s win there last year.
“They see us as a team that they can just beat,” Anderson said. “We’re competitive and we’re gonna fight and we weren’t just gonna let them come in here and beat us like they did last year. If that makes us rivals then that makes us rivals.”
Spiders head coach Chris Mooney, who came to Richmond in 2005 during the height of the Colonials’ success, said that his program looked to GW as an example of what it could become.
“When we first got here GW was a great, great, great team, and I think they were able to really come in and kind of handle us fairly easily,” Mooney said. “I think as we’ve gotten better, we’ve looked at them and the program that they are as someone that we want to become like, so I think that’s where it comes from a little bit.”
After recently earning its first national ranking in 24 years, it would seem Richmond has done well in duplicating the Colonials’ previous success. More than 9,000 fans turned out for Saturday’s game at the Robbins Center, the Spiders’ largest home crowd since the 2002 NIT quarterfinals.
In terms of road atmospheres, Hobbs said after the game that Saturday’s ranked at the top of his list.
“This was the best ever. Even when we had our really good teams… wherever we played there were great crowds,” Hobbs said. “It was just a tremendous crowd. They were enthusiastic throughout. Our players were very, very excited.”
Ultimately for Hobbs, however, the excitement of a budding rivalry and electric crowd was tempered by a second close loss to Richmond in a one-month span.
“It’s becoming just a terrific basketball game when we play them, it really is,” Hobbs said. “We just gotta find a way to come up with a win.”
This article appeared in the February 22, 2010 issue of the Hatchet.